The State Department certainly had its priorities straight in the weeks leading up to the government shutdown: In September, the last month of the fiscal year, it spent $180,000 ... on booze. That includes $11,550 on "gratuity whiskey" and "gratuity wine" at the embassy in Rio, $22,416 in wine for the embassy in Tokyo, and $15,900 worth of bourbon and whiskey in Moscow, the Washington Times reports. The president of a watchdog group explains that toward the end of the fiscal year, departments "have a 'use-it-or-lose-it' mentality," trying to use up the money in their budgets so as not to invite congressional cuts the following year.
Even so, the increased liquor spending is part of a recent trend: In fiscal year 2008, the department spent just $118,000 all year on alcohol; in 2011, that was up to $331,000; by 2012, $415,000. The booze, of course, is used at diplomatic events. Also in September, the State Department spent $1 million on a granite sculpture by an Irish-born artist, plus more than $300,000 on other works of art, the Weekly Standard reports. The Sean Scully sculpture is meant for the new US Embassy in London. (Read more State Department stories.)