A recent government audit wagged its finger at the Justice Department for spending $16 on muffins. It's a great story, a classic case of government abuse—and almost certainly not true, writes Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. Yes, the invoices show the department spent $4,200 on 250 muffins and similarly egregious amounts for cookies. "So did DOJ really pay $16 for muffins?" asks Drum. "Of course not." The problem is that the auditors accepted hotel invoices as gospel—and they never are.
His theory: Someone at DOJ gave the hotel a budget. The hotel then divvied up charges into a handful of categories, instead of invoicing every piece of food served. "I'm here to tell you that this happens All. The. Time," writes Drum. "I've been involved in what feels like a thousand conferences of this kind, and I'd be shocked if it happened any other way." The pricey muffin is a "myth," all thanks to auditors "who broke out a calculator and mistakenly assumed they could calculate actual costs this way." His full post is here.