Because what would the nation do without an official portrait of EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson at a bargain basement $40,000. And it is bargain basement since the EPA’s cost to Americans has probably been closer to 400 billion dollars.

The portrait isn’t available yet, but you can use your imagination. Or your crayons.

But if you want to cheap out.  A 3-by-4-foot oil portrait of Agriculture Department Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack runs a mere $22,500. I would do it for 30 bucks, but it probably wouldn’t be all that flattering.

All told, the government has paid out at least $180,000 for official portraits since last year, according to a review by The Washington Times of spending records at federal agencies and military offices across government.

Ann Fader, president of Portrait Consultants in Washington, which represents portrait artists, said that because of policy, she could not discuss any specific government commissions. But she said some agencies start the search for an artist long before secretaries leave because paintings can take from eight to 14 months to complete and frame.

“These are done for future generations to see how we live now, and it’s really a tribute as well as part of a person’s legacy,” she said.

“It’s a tremendous privilege to paint a portrait of somebody as accomplished as these people,” she said

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