NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Politicians Establish Charities to Bring Home the Pork

April 22, 2002

In a new trend that has taxpayer watchdog groups up in arms, some members of Congress are establishing their own charities -- and funding them through the House Appropriations Committee in order to facilitate the flow of federal funds into their districts.

  • For example, Rep. Allan Mollohan (D-W.V.), ranking member of the House subcommittee that funds housing programs, set up the Vandalia Heritage Rescue Foundation and secured $6 million in federal money for it this year to rescue decaying historic buildings in his district.
  • In 1999, Rep. James Walsh (R-N.Y.), chairman of the subcommittee that funds housing, secured $31 million for his Syracuse Neighborhood Initiative to revitalize that city's downtown.
  • Rep. Anne Northup (R-Ky.) established the Louisville Neighborhood Initiative in 2000, named herself as director, and in 2 years has steered $5 million in federal grants to the group.
  • Government funds for local pork projects usually flow to local government entities -- but setting up these charities eliminates the government middleman and allows politicians to receive the credit.

Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, calls these schemes "near the top as far as outrages in government spending." And Bill Allison, managing editor at the Center for Public Integrity, comments that he "just can't see how this is not a conflict of interest."

Source: Jonathan Weisman, "'Pork' Noses Into Non-Profits," USA Today, April 22, 2002.

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