House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to justify a lavish state dinner last May that cost nearly $1 million and featured entertainment by Beyoncé and food from celebrity chef Rick Bayless.
Issa has attacked the Obama administration for excessive spending on conferences, and continues to press for information about the General Services Administration's (GSA) Las Vegas conference in 2010 that cost more than $800,000. Issa said in his Thursday letter to Clinton that excessive spending on state dinners sends the same message — that Washington is not being frugal with taxpayer money.
"During these tough economic times, Americans are reining in their spending wherever possible," he wrote on Thursday. "The Executive Branch should be mindful of this. Reports of excessively lavish events, however, indicate the opposite.
"Reports of excessive costs for the May 2012 dinner create the appearance that the White House and State Department are not planning and executing state dinners responsibly," he added.
He also said the use of an outside event planner is a new and especially expensive touch.
"Hiring an outside event planner appears to be a departure from the practice of previous administrations, which relied on in-house planners for state dinners and other events," he wrote. "The use of an expensive outside event planner for state dinners raises concerns about unnecessary expenditures."
As part of his committee's oversight role, Issa asked Clinton for all documents related to the planning and execution of state dinners, and itemized costs and expenses for the last six state dinners held. He asked for this and other information by Nov. 15.
Issa's office also released a video on Friday called "Spend Like He Says, Not Like He Does," which features President Obama saying Washington needs to trim spending, but then shows him speaking at a dinner in which he jokes about the GSA spending scandal.
"We've got men in tuxes, women in gowns, fine wine, first class entertainment," Obama says. "I was just relieved to learn this was not a GSA conference."