Phony districts get stimulus cash

Phony districts get stimulus cash

November 25th, 2009 in Opinion Free Press

The state of Arizona has eight members in the U.S. House of Representatives, each of them representing one of Arizona's eight congressional districts.

So it must have been quite a surprise to learn that more than $760,000 from the $787 billion "stimulus" approved by Congress this year had gone to Arizona's "15th District." Arizona has no 15th District.

Unfortunately, this wasn't a fluke. The very Web site set up by the Obama administration to assure the American people that stimulus money is being spent responsibly boasted that $34 million went to Arizona's 86th District. That's truly amazing, since even the most populous state, California, doesn't have that many districts.

Alas, Arizona was not alone in this mysterious allocation of funds to sham districts.

ABC News started digging around on the Web site in question, Recovery.gov. The site, which prominently urges readers to report "potential fraud, waste and abuse" of stimulus funds, said $19 million was spent in nonexistent districts in Oklahoma. Nearly $11 million went to bogus districts in Iowa. And in a remarkable feat, the invisible 42nd District of Connecticut reportedly created 25 stimulus-related jobs.

Leaving the U.S. mainland, phony congressional districts in the U.S. Virgin Islands netted about $77 million in stimulus cash, and Puerto Rico's supposed 99th District got roughly $48 million.

The administration is blaming human error and offering assurances that the money was used properly, in legitimate congressional districts.

We hope that's so. But with the Recovery.gov Web site having received an $18 million grant this year, it's hard to believe that it lacks the staff to put out even minimally accurate information. If that's the level of competence the American people can expect, how confident will they be that the stimulus money is being spent responsibly -- much less that they can expect effective action if they report "fraud, waste and abuse" to the Web site?


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