Politicians Who Wasted The Government's Money In The Most Ridiculous Ways

Sure, nobody enjoys paying taxes, but in today's world, good luck running a country without them. While it's no fun coughing up those hard-earned dollars to the government, taxes are the only reason you're able to have quality roads, schools, street lamps, fire departments, and sewer systems, the nice array of conveniences that all make contemporary life a lot easier (and definitely more sanitary!) than it used to be. Putting political debates aside, though, if there's one thing that regular people from all corners of the spectrum can agree on, it's that there are few things more infuriating than a sneaky government official snatching up those valuable tax dollars and spending the dough on something selfish, greedy, or just plain stupid. Unfortunately, sometimes the wrong politicians get the keys to the national piggy bank. Here are some of the most egregious examples of politicians wasting government money.

Scott Pruitt loved spending

For someone whose job was running the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt had some pretty weird, unscientific ideas about climate change, and his tenure was mired in more scandals than a soap opera. One thing that made him enemies on both sides of the aisle, though, was his flagrant disregard for taxpayer dollars. How bad was it? According to Newsweek, some of Pruitt's most lofty excesses included using government money to install a $43,000 soundproof phone booth in his office — there are far cheaper ways to make private calls, dude — as well as travel arrangements that always included the most expensive hotels imaginable. Most people would probably love having an annual travel budget of $450,000 a year, but this was chump change to Pruitt, who tried to use federal funds to secure a private jet rental for $100,000 a month. A bit overboard? Not enough for Pruitt, who used taxpayer money to buy loads of pointless Delta flights for the purpose of securing frequent flier miles. According to the Intercept, he also spent thousands on oh-so-important security items like "tactical pants" and "tactical polos." As if a polo shirt could ever be that cool.

This big spending started getting people angry, so Pruitt dipped out and turned in his resignation. That hasn't stopped a storm cloud of investigations from floating over his head, according to the New Republic, as more revelations about his tenure slowly leak out over time.

Ben Carson's dining set

In early 2018, the Department of Housing and Urban Development was getting ready to have its budget slashed, according to Snopes, so HUD chief Ben Carson did what any penny pincher would do: He purchased a spiffy new dining set for his office and charged it to the agency. How much did it cost? Well, how does $31,000 sound?

Once you've picked your jaw up off the floor — and started questioning how such ludicrously expensive dining sets even exist — it's important to note that the entire purpose of HUD is to address the country's housing needs, particularly for the economically disadvantaged, so wasting the budget on this level of crazy spending is like giving a middle finger to the poor. One HUD official allegedly complained about these shenanigans and found herself demoted. Once word got out, though, Ben Carson quickly claimed that he'd had no idea about the expensive purchase and was canceling it. At one point he even blamed it all on his wife, according to the New York Times. None of Carson's cover stories line up with the actual emails inspected by Politico, though, raising the serious question of how this guy has (as of this writing) managed to keep his job.

Chandeliers, mortgage payments and massage chairs? Thank you, British taxpayers

If you're not a U.S. reader, don't feel left out: Wasteful spending by shady politicians happens all over the world. For example, long, long ago, in the 2000s, the British Parliament had the bright idea of furnishing their lifestyles with a little taxpayer money, according to the Washington Post.

The list of expenditures reads more like something out of a Fawlty Towers episode than real life: One member, for example, charged taxpayers $3,000 for cleaning out the moat around his country home. One purchased a massage chair. Others paid off their mortgages. One member had his tennis court repaired, while still others picked up plasma TVs, horse manure, fancy chandeliers, and ... yes, somebody bought some porn. All in all, this was absolutely a group effort, but somebody had to take the fall, and in 2009 that person ended up being Michael Martin, speaker for the House of Commons, marking the first time in 300 years that someone of his position was forced out of office. Ouch.

David Watkins rode the helicopter into an (unexpected) retirement

A lot of people are bad with money, but everyone has that one friend who seems absolutely dedicated to maxing out their credit cards on ridiculously dumb, over-the-top nonsense, then wonders why they don't have money for food. Now, imagine if one of these guys got into office. Back in 1994, the New York Times reported that President Bill Clinton's director of administration, David Watkins, had decided to play a couple rounds of golf. That's not newsworthy, of course, since all these guys seem obsessed with hitting balls around grassy hills. What was newsworthy, though, was that Watkins decided to commute to his favorite Maryland golf course not by limo, taxi, or train, but using an official White House helicopter, which cost the taxpayers over $2,000 an hour to operate. Nobody except Watkins was happy about his action movie entrance to the golf course, least of all President Clinton. Within a few hours, Watkins' job went kaput. But hey, at least he got to practice his swing, right?

New Zealand's dirty flicks scandal

If there's one thing a person should never spend somebody else's money on, it's adult entertainment. Especially not if you're a government official with a fancy government credit card and you're swiping it on a startling array of 50 skin flicks, sometimes even two a night, with the bill going right to your taxpayers. Yikes.

According to the New Zealand Herald, this was exactly what Labour minister Shane Jones did in 2010. The details leaked, as they always do, surprising and enraging lots of Kiwis ... including (understandably) Jones' wife. Unlike the other politicians on this list, Jones did reimburse the funds he stole, but even he admitted there was really no excuse for his actions. He and two other MPs, who also misused public funds, were subsequently demoted, according to a later report by the Herald. Jones took a brief political break, but by 2017 he made a surprising comeback, eventually finding his way back into the Ministerial list. Hopefully he's not planning on a repeat performance of his 2010 debacle.

Suns, moons and honeymoons

Okay, first of all, if you're a former Goldman Sachs guy with a net worth of nearly $600 million, as estimated by Fortune, you really have no excuse to be using government money to fund your love life. Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin evidently didn't get the memo, though, because he thought it would be really sweet to have U.S. taxpayers foot the bill for his honeymoon with new wife Louise Linton. According to USA Today, Mnuchin tried to rent a government plane for his romantic getaway, a bizarre request that would have cost U.S. citizens about $25,000 an hour. Hey, who needs roses when you have a fancy plane paid for by the citizenry?

This wasn't his only moonshot, though. That same year, despite saying he didn't care about the solar eclipse, Business Insider says he borrowed government money for a flight to Kentucky just to get a better view of the astrological phenomenon. Yes, eclipses are cool, but stealing money from the general populace is not, and within a few weeks the Independent reported that Mnuchin was being investigated by his own department. He ended up reimbursing his wife's part of the Kentucky trip, according to CNN, which amounted to $595.90 — not much, for a trip that cost over $26,000 in total.

Probably shouldn't have had taxpayers buy your life insurance

Sneaky, sneaky. In 2018, the Charlotte Observer reported that the county manager of North Carolina's Buncombe County, Wanda Greene, had gotten a little too enthusiastic about life insurance plans. Using millions of taxpayer dollars as if they were her personal wallet, Greene bought life insurance for herself, her son, and eight of her employees, misleading the latter group into believing that the county's Board of Commissioners had approved free new life insurance benefits for everyone. Great! Not. Time went on, and when Greene retired, she cashed out on two of her shady policies, earning almost $400,000. She and her son also used her government credit card to make almost $200,000 worth of purchases on wine, makeup, and gift cards for stores like Walmart and Target.

Eventually, this corrupt spending spree was uncovered, and in June 2018, she was indicted with wire fraud, federal program fraud, and money laundering.

This congressman really loved pop culture

It's only natural that when you move into a new space you want to make it your own. However, Illinois congressman Aaron Schock went a bit too far with his homemaking flair, according to the Guardian, when he redecorated his new office in Washington with a fancy Downton Abbey theme, leaving a big bill for the taxpayers. How big? Try $40,000-ish. Is it a little less painful if you know that a single chandelier cost approximately $5,000? Didn't think so.

The infamous office redecorating party was only one of Schock's spending sprees, though, as Cosmopolitan wrote that he also used government funds to buy VIP tickets for himself and his interns to rock out at a Katy Perry concert. Combine that with other shows, massages, and expensive hotel stays, and it's no big surprise that Mr. Schock ended up getting so embroiled in controversy that he was forced to resign, abandoning his beloved office. The saga didn't end there, though, as in November 2018 he was charged with a 24-count indictment, with one of the counts being — you guessed it — theft of government funds.

'Thanks for the bagels and coffee, America!'

Yes, those dry morning meetings always go better with coffee, and throwing in a little breakfast is a nice bonus. In 2013, though, ABC revealed that U.S. Representatives were taking up a bipartisan effort to ... uh, spend millions of taxpayer dollars on those aforementioned coffee and breakfast foods.

Now, admittedly, there's no such thing as "too much" coffee. Nonetheless, spending $2 million on coffee, doughnuts, and bagels is a bit much, when all the folks involved certainly get paid enough to buy their own breakfast without breaking the piggy bank. Though leaders on both sides of the aisle were guilty of this tax-funded breakfast indulgence, ABC discovered the biggest spender turned out to be Congressman Kevin McCarthy (now the House majority leader) who purchased nearly $100,000 worth of food, including fruit and croissants. When asked about it, he said, "You noticed. We cut it out." Congrats on doing the right thing after getting noticed!

The hotel Melania Trump never stayed at

First lady Melania Trump isn't quite a politician, to be fair, and she's generally tried to stay out of the public eye. But she's definitely a political figure with lots of access to government money. And all cameras were focused on her during a 2018 trip through the African continent, when Vanity Fair says her stay in Egypt ended up giving the U.S. taxpayers a bill of around 95,000. This high charge came from Semiramis Intercontinental Cairo, and the payment was made an entire week before Mrs. Trump's visit, with the item description reading "FLOTUS visit hotel rooms."

Now, if you're wondering what "FLOTUS visit hotel rooms" means, and why it's so insanely expensive, you're not the only one. But to make matters even more bewildering, Melania herself didn't even stay at the hotel. The rooms may have been for staff planning her visit before she got there, but how that adds up to nearly $100,000 hasn't been explained. For now, the whole thing is a mystery ... and you paid for it.