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Republicans criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for giving pens to other House members as keepsakes after she used them to sign the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Jan. 15.
White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, for example, retweeted a photo of the pens and wrote: "Nancy Pelosi’s souvenir pens served up on silver platters to sign the sham articles of impeachment...She was so somber as she gave them away to people like prizes."
But on Facebook, some users levied a new accusation against the speaker.
"$2,025 per pen," a Jan. 16 post begins. "Paid for by taxpayers. Is there any doubt Pelosi thinks she’s the Queen? Now we know why she delayed sending the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate… she was waiting for her gold-plated impeachment pens."
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
This claim is wrong. Each pen cost just under $15, according to Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff.
When we asked Richard Arenberg, a professor of the practice of political science at Brown University, about the post, he told us "the $2,025 figure is ridiculous."
Searching through all 16 pages of Google results for $2,025 and Pelosi’s name, we couldn’t find any other mentions of the pens’ price. The only relevant results were the message in this Facebook post reshared on web forums.
The most recent Statement of Disbursements of the House, in which the chief administrative officer details receipts and expenditures of appropriations and other funds from July 1 to Sept. 30, 2019, shows that the speaker’s office spent about $29,000 on supplies and materials that quarter, and about $229,500 that year to date, but there isn’t a specific line item for pens.
In the past, reporters have combed through these quarterly reports to see how lawmakers are spending taxpayer money. In 2009, Politico reported that Pelosi spent $2,993 on flowers between June and October of that year. Then-Minority Leader John Boehner spent about $24,617 on catering.
According to Business Insider, Pelosi used 30 customized pens engraved with her name to sign her name on the impeachment articles. We would expect that Republicans outraged over the tone of the signing ceremony would also balk at the $60,750 price tag. But reviewing stories from the Washington Post, the Associated Press, Fox News, The Hill, BBC, and the Washington Times, among others, we saw no note of the pen’s price.
It’s not unusual for lawmakers and presidents to gift signing pens though in this case Pelosi’s critics argue it wasn’t appropriate. As the BBC notes, then-President Barack Obama used 22 pens to sign the Affordable Care Act, and Republican senators kept pens as souvenirs after signing oaths for then-President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial in 1998.
We rate this Facebook post Pants on Fire.
Facebook post, Jan. 16, 2020
Stephanie Grisham tweet, Jan. 16, 2020
The Associated Press, Nancy Pelosi hands out impeachment pens, a signing tradition, Jan. 16, 2020
Statement of Disbursements of the House, July 1-Sep. 30, 2019
Politico, Pelosi spends $2,993 on flowers, Nov. 30, 2009
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