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Archive for Sunday, July 15, 2007

Oklahoma senator criticizes government mascots

July 15, 2007

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— An Oklahoma senator known for targeting what he considers to be inappropriate federal spending is now turning his sights on government mascots.

But U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn's new effort apparently has nothing to do with one of nation's best-known symbols - Smokey Bear.

"Smokey is not a mascot," said Allison Stewart, national press officer for the Forest Service. "Smokey is a fire-prevention bear."

Stewart also pointed out that Smokey, who has been on the job for six decades, was authorized by federal law.

Same is true for Woodsy Owl.

Coburn's subcommittee staff has sent out a questionnaire to every federal agency asking it to compile information on mascots.

"It is not about going after a particular mascot," the Oklahoma Republican said. "It is about the money."

Coburn said he is trying to get a handle on how much the federal government spends each year on mascots and the Web sites that support them.

"On average, it looks like there's (up to) $4 million a year just to maintain (a) Web site, and we have thousands of them," he said. "It is not one or two. There's thousands of them."

Coburn declined to name any specific mascot that concerns him.

Sent out by staff of a financial management subcommittee, where Coburn serves as the top Republican, the questionnaire asks for the history and purpose of the mascot, the number of staff involved, costs of the mascot's upkeep and its travel schedule.

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