News & Politics

Hey, Big Spender, You Sure You Want to Do That?

Lawrence Small, former head man at the Smithsonian, fell victim to a classic DC sin: conspicuous consumption.

In a city where the idealism—and relative poverty—of public service is celebrated, every year seems to bring a scandal where a public official succumbs, criminally or otherwise, to very expensive tastes.

In recent years, American University president Ben Ladner, Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, and Barbara Bullock, the head of the Washington Teachers’ Union, have met similar disgrace—and the last two ended up with jail time to boot.

Here’s a quiz to find out how well you know the city’s conspicuous consumers. All of the choices stem from these four scandals:

•Duke Cunningham received which of the following from defense contractor Mitchell Wade:

A. a $6,800 silver ice bucket with swan-head handles

B. $7,200 for two commodes, one a Louis Phillipe circa 1850

C. $27,000 in car-service fees

D. $1,285 for meals during a two-night stay in Rome

•Larry Small filed for reimbursement for which of the following:

A. $17,000 at Miller’s Furs in Chevy Chase

B. $17,889.96 for repairs to a Rolls-Royce

C. $2,535 to clean a chandelier

D. $30,000 for landscape designers to create a backyard waterfall and pond

•Board members raised their eyebrows to which travel expense of the Ladners:

A. a $105,000-a-year chauffeur

B. the $6,600-a-night Hapuna Suite at Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel in Hawaii

C. one $14,509 round-trip charter flight to San Antonio

D. a first-class plane ticket to Nigeria for $22,345

•Which purchase was charged to the Smithsonian for Small’s house:

A. a 288-piece Tiffany sterling-silver set worth $57,000

B. $12,000 in antiques, including three nightstands, a leaded-glass cabinet, washstand, buffet, and four armoires

C. $15,000 for the replacement of French doors

D. $100-a-glass Waterford Curraghmore crystal

•The Ladners charged which of the following to American University:

A. $600 alligator-skin loafers

B. $7,500 in yacht-club fees

C. $273,000 in housekeeping services

D. two days and three nights in London, including $2,352 for the hotel and $2,513 for food, a car and driver, and other expenses

•Barbara Bullock’s conspicuous consumption included which of the following:

A. $500,000 in custom-made clothing from Baltimore clothier Van Style

B. a $14,496.78 Sea-Doo Speedster watercraft

C. $9,300 for flowers

D. a $88,000-a-year chef

•Cunningham’s indictment shows that the congressman enjoyed eating well, including which of the following:

A. a $6,000 tab at Williams-Sonoma

B. a $3,144.18 dinner at the Capital Grille

C. a $4,300 dinner for staff

D. a 13-course, $1,381.95 engagement dinner on New Year’s Eve 2004

Answers: All (A) expenditures apply to Bullock, (B) to Cunningham, (C) to Small, and (D) to Ladner.