Skip to main content

State Department defends $5 million for high-end glassware

By Lesa Jansen, CNN
updated 8:03 AM EDT, Thu October 10, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Simon Pearce of Vermont wins contract for glassware
  • Officials say purchase "not connected" to shutdown
  • State Department: Good company, good products

Washington (CNN) -- You might call it "stemwaregate", a seemingly extravagant luxury purchase by the U.S. Department of State just before the federal government partially shuts down.

A contract worth as much as $5 million was awarded to high-end Vermont glass and pottery designer Simon Pearce to design and manufacture glass stemware for U.S. foreign embassies just days before the October 1st government shutdown.

State Department spokesperson Marie Harf sought Wednesday to downplay the story.

"[T]here was no sort of $5 million midnight purchase trying to get it just in under the wire," she said. "This contract was not connected in any way to the shutdown."

But Harf did acknowledge the contract, which was awarded September 25, coincided with the end of the government's fiscal year, at which time many agencies incorporate a "use it or lose it" mentality with their funding.

A spokesperson for Simon Pearce told CNN the contract is for 12,500 pieces of custom hand-blown glassware to be produced over five years and to be used at foreign embassies.

Simon Pearce stemware isn't cheap -- starting at $65 per piece. But the spokeswoman said the government has negotiated a "significant reduction" in price due to the volume order.

The company spokesperson said Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy was instrumental in securing the contract. Simon Pearce expects the contract to allow it to hire many additional workers at its Quechee facility, which was nearly destroyed by Hurricane Irene two years ago.

Harf said the purchase reinforces U.S. worldwide diplomacy: "We're out there representing the United States, and I think what better way to do that than with a good American company with good American products."

5 crazy side effects from the shutdown

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:48 AM EDT, Fri October 18, 2013
After all the bickering and grandstanding, the billions lost and trust squandered, it was much ado about nothing
updated 1:31 PM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
The government is open. The debt limit is lifted. The fight is over.
updated 12:51 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Weeks of bitter political fighting gave way to a frenzied night as Congress passed the bill that would prevent the country from crashing into the debt ceiling.
updated 11:30 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
The U.S. government looked perilously close to hitting its debt ceiling. Here are the stories you missed during the shutdown.
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Even before President Barack Obama signed the deal into law, Yosemite National Park fired off a statement: We're open for business, right now.
updated 7:00 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
It took more than two weeks, but Congress finally reached a shutdown-ending, debt ceiling-raising deal that satisfies both sides of the aisle.
updated 7:14 PM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
So much for a "clean" bill. The measure passed by Congress to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling also contains some goodies and gifts tucked into the 35-page bill.
updated 10:40 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
OK, so Congress passed a bill, the President signed it into law and the government's finally back in business.
updated 11:17 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
It began with high hopes and lofty rhetoric, as a newly reelected President Barack Obama ended his State of the Union wish list with a call to action.
updated 11:26 AM EDT, Fri October 18, 2013
The shutdown is over after 16 days, but the things we missed while the government was closed are still fresh in our minds. Here are nine things we're thrilled to have back.
updated 6:27 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Long before the ink had dried on the Senate deal, the writing was already on the wall for the Republican Party: The last three weeks have hurt them.
updated 11:21 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Only 61 people in the history of the United States have held the position. It's the second most powerful in the country and second in line to the presidency.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Congressional approval ratings hovered at historic lows. Republican and Democrats hurled insults at each other and among themselves. The political circus in Washington even made its way to "Saturday Night Live: -- in a sketch featuring Miley Cyrus, at that.
updated 5:02 PM EDT, Mon September 23, 2013
Many government services and agencies were closed at the end of 1995 and beginning of 1996 as President Bill Clinton battled a GOP-led Congress over spending levels.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT