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Billboard Study: Millions spent on taxpayer-funded trips for officials

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Luxury hotels, cocktail parties and trips around the world, all for government officials and paid for by taxpayers.

Apparently, studying billboards was worth an overseas trip for the Department of Transportation. (Photo: TBD Staff)

A special ABC News investigation found that the government is spending millions to send teams overseas to research other countries billboards.

The program has spent about $12 million over the past 10 years. The discovery comes at a time when all government entities are supposed look for places to cut spending.

The first overseas trip ABC found began with a team of 12 charged with studying outdoor advertising – also known as billboards. They brought back a 76-page report filled with snapshots and analysis.

“Taxpayers certainly should be outraged that their money is being spent on this type of activity when our roads are falling part, gas taxes and prices are at an all time high,” Tom Schatz, president of Citizens against Government Waste, told the network.

The billboard study took the team from Australia to Sweden, the Netherlands, and Scotland before it ended 17 days later in London.

According to ABC, the team was made up of state and federal highway officials. They stayed in high-end hotels and hosted cocktail parties.

"No one even gets to take a vacation like that. It really is a ridiculous use of our money,” Schatz said.

"We probably could use that money right here. There's a lot of things happening in the us where money's needed,” said D.C. resident Milton Harris.

The officials who wrote the final report say the program will help growth in the U.S.

"I'm actually an architect and urban designer and we take some of these things for granted, but if you look at public spaces there is a quality. It's probably not as easily measurable as other things, but there is a value,” said Rhett James, who lives in D.C.

ABC did contact the secretary of transportation, Ray LaHood. He suspended the program, but meanwhile another team is overseas studying pavements. They are scheduled to return next week.

Read the full investigation at ABC News.

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