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Yes, I’d like to report spending stupidity

Scott Jagow Mar 30, 2009

Uncle Sam wants you to be on the lookout for waste, fraud and mismanagement of the stimulus package. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is asking people to contact Fraudnet with allegations of abuse in Recovery Act spending. What I’m wondering is whether the President can call this hotline: “Hi. There are several governors who aren’t doing what I asked them to. Can you please help me?”

A perfect example is the Recovery Act’s education funding. The President says most of that money is supposed to go toward keeping teachers. The Education Secretary says the administration will “come down like a ton of bricks” on anyone who gets in the way of this money going to save jobs.

Unfortunately for the President and the Education Secretary, Congress didn’t make this easy to enforce, as the Associated Press points out:

…the law was written so broadly that most of the stabilization dollars can be spent on just about anything — carpet, wallpaper, playground equipment, even new school construction — which may bother Senate moderates who insisted on dropping a new school construction program before they would vote for the bill.

Here’s how some governors would like to spend the money: Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle wants to fill a budget gap. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter wants to hold the money in reserve. South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford wants to pay down debt; he’s been turned down by the White House budget office and is threatening to refuse some of the money, as is Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

The Education Secretary says he’s looking for ways to make states take the money. He might withhold installments from states that don’t abide the President’s request. I’m sure members of Congress will have something to say about that if their state is cut off:

“The jury is really still out on how forceful the Obama administration is going to be on this,” said Amy Wilkins, a lobbyist for Education Trust, a children’s advocacy group.

“We’ve heard a lot of secretaries of education talk about rigorous enforcement and, `We are really going to hold them accountable,'” she said. “We rarely get that.”

Mr. President, here’s the Fraudnet website, in case your other plans for enforcement don’t work.

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