How the feds hand out your dollars

By Henry Lamb

It’s probably natural for those who have the power to hand out your money to first feather the nests of their friends and allies. But that doesn’t make it right.

Jessica Tuchman Mathews was vice president of World Resources Institute, before joining the Clinton administration as Deputy Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs. Between 1997 and 2001, WRI received $13,990,584 of your money. She then went to work for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which received only $66,800 of your money while she was in office.

Brooks Yeager was director of government relations for the National Audubon Society when he joined Clinton’s Department of Interior. The Audubon Society bellied up for $4,147,380 of your money. He then joined World Wildlife Fund, which enjoyed the use of $92,607,753 of your hard-earned tax dollars during the same five-year period.

John Leshy came to Clinton’s Department of Interior from the Natural Resources Defense Council. His former employer benefited to the tune of $4,209,499. John then joined the board of directors of the Natural Heritage Institute, which received $811,650 dollars of your money.
(See a partial list of federal grants here.)

Why does government allow this?

Consider the $13,359,988 awarded to the Alliance to Save Energy during the same reporting period. A look at its board of directors may shed some light: five are members of Congress.

Then there’s $8,474,220 funding for the Environment Council of States. This organization consists of officials from state environmental departments. Through this organization, the federal government orchestrates its policy for implementation in every state. Through organizations such as this, funded with your tax dollars, the federal government is transforming state government agencies into administrative units for the feds.

A similar situation exists with the $13,190,826 awarded to STAPPA/ALAPCO, another not-for-profit organization that consists of government employees in charge of state air pollution programs. This outfit lobbies Congress for more money for the EPA and sends delegates to U.N. climate change meetings.

Why should your tax dollars be given to trade unions that contribute substantially to political campaigns? The feds gave $4,389,196 to the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, between 1997-2001. In the ’98, ’00, and ’02 election cycles, this organization contributed $19,510,865 to political candidates, 98 percent of which went to Democrats.

Another intrigue is the federal money not-for-profits get beyond grants. The Nature Conservancy, for example, received $146,689,449 during the reporting period. In the year 2000 alone, it also received $60,085,455 in contract fees from the federal government, plus $81,925,124 from the sale of private land to federal agencies.

This abuse of tax dollars should be halted.

At the very least, every federal agency that awards a grant to any non-government organization should be required to fully disclose the recipient, the amount, and the purpose of the grant, on its website, immediately after the award.

Beyond this, every agency should also be required to report each grant through the Federal Assistance Awards Data System, through a uniform identification procedure, so every grant to every recipient can be identified. Currently, organizations can receive grants from multiple agencies, and nowhere in government is the aggregate fully disclosed.

To prevent what appears to be nest-feathering, organizations from which agency officials are drawn should be automatically barred from receiving grants during the tenure of the agency official. This would keep some of the extremists out of government, while keeping more of the tax money in government for more appropriate uses.

Grants to environmental organizations are a vast and growing problem which will not be solved by the agencies. Congress must step up to its oversight responsibility. Using your money, environmental organizations have developed massive lobbying machines that have quickly extinguished previous efforts to reform the grant-making abuses.

Nothing short of an overwhelming public outcry will likely move Congress. Full public disclosure of all grants to non-government organizations will so infuriate the people who are paying the bills that Congress will have to act.