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The World War II generation has reason to associate the U.S. Department of State with treason in the form of Stalinist spy Alger Hiss. Baby Boomers and beyond have come to associate State Department briefings with “Saturday Night Live” in the form of spokesperson Marie Harf, who shows a keen sense for the absurd. Now people of all ages can associate the State Department with plain old-fashioned government waste.
As Kellan Howell of the Washington Times explains, since 2007 the U.S. State Department has spent more than $36.5 million “to survey citizens in foreign countries on a wide range of topics, including general public opinion polling on how their own governments — many of them U.S. allies — are performing.” The topics include a survey of medical insurance in Spain, an elite survey in Russian and a survey on “Public Attitudes Toward Domestic and International Affairs in Austria.”
As Howell reports, of the $36.5 million more than $34 million “was paid to unnamed contractors according to the contracts compiled from USASpending.gov.” Such spending “nearly doubled” on the watch of Secretary of State and former First Lady Hillary Clinton. In fiscal year 2012 alone “the state department spent over $7.5 million alone on international polls.” Howell also notes that on Clinton’s watch, “the polling contracts became less transparent. Many of the projects were simply described with one word, ‘survey,’ and were billed to ‘miscellaneous’ foreign contractors.” Those intrigued by this record may want to review the recent book Clinton Cash.
Meanwhile, complaints now arise that a congressional investigation of Secretary Clinton’s handling of Benghazi is a waste of money. Actually, such investigations are a legitimate function of Congress and often prove useful. On the other hand, for the U.S. Department of State to spend more than $36.5 million on useless foreign surveys is indeed a waste of taxpayer dollars.