Obama sends "stimulus" funds to phantom congressional districts
By Thomas A. DeWeese
web posted March 22, 2010
To promote bragging rights for how much good the stimulus money was doing for America, the Obama Administration set up a website called "Recovery.gov." Recorded on the site were details by zip code and congressional district as to how much money was sent there and how many new jobs were created as a result. It was a great piece of public relations where news reporters and politicians could find and quote the latest "good news for the economy."
However, there was one small problem. The Administration didn't count on a group called New Mexico Watchdog, a project of the Rio Grande Foundation. While researching the site, the Foundation's investigative research journalist Jim Scarantino noticed something strange. It seems the site was reporting money going to several New Mexico congressional districts that do not exist.
The website reported that $26.5 million went to ten New Mexico Congressional districts. The site credited that money with creating a whopping 61.5 jobs. That, in itself, should be a crime – spending more than $430,000 per job crated. However, that wasn't the big story. The fact is, those ten Congressional districts do not exist. New Mexico only has three – not thirteen.
As New Mexico Watchdog broke the story, investigators from other states took up the hunt, finding a total of 440 phantom congressional districts receiving nearly $6.4 billion to "create or save" just under 30,000 jobs – almost $225,000 per job. The "99th" District of North Dakota, a state which has only one congressional district, received more than $2 million.
Mississippi's 5th District and Oklahoma's 6th District, and Pennsylvania's 21st District each received $1 million. But none of them exist. All three were eliminated as a result of the 2000 census. Money also went to 35 congressional districts in Washington, DC and the four American territories, all of which have no congressional districts.
Then it got worse. Not only did the site almost double the size of Congress with its phantom districts, further examination showed money also going to zip codes that don't exist. The site reported that $373,874 went to New Mexico zip code 97052 – but no jobs were created. $36,218 was credited for creating five jobs in zip code 87258. $100,000 went into zip code 86705 – but no jobs were created. None of these zip codes exist.
Again, the nationwide search showed the same results. West Virginia – $28 million in non-existent zip codes; Nebraska – millions more in non-existent zips; Washington state – more stimulus funds in non-existent zip codes; Virginia - $9.5 million in phantom zip codes; Colorado – millions more; Oklahoma - $11.5 million – phantom zips.
And the excuse from the Obama Administration? Clerical error. Ed Pound, director of communications for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board blamed the problem on an oversight by the fund recipients. He said it appeared that some of those filling out the reports just didn't know their congressional districts (or zip codes apparently), and therefore listed an inaccurate number.
But the Administration is quick on its feet and in its transparency. The problem has been solved. All of the reports from non-existent Congressional districts and zip codes have been removed and re-listed under "unassigned congressional districts." No one, of course, has bothered to investigate where the money actually went.
Tom DeWeese is the President of the American Policy Center and the Editor of The DeWeese Report. The DeWeese Report is now available online, for more information click here.