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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stimulus Package doubles size of Congress

The political appeal of the $787 billion stimulus package was that it allowed the Obama Administration to spread the money across all 435 Congressional Districts in an attempt to win votes from politicians eager to bring home the bacon in rough economic times. But reports by the Obama Administration's Recovery.gov database show that the money wasn't limited to those 435 districts. It also went to 440 Congressional Districts that don't exist.

Reporter Jim Scarantino of the Rio Grande Foundation broke the news yesterday that the stimulus tracking website listed millions in federal funds for projects in ten bogus New Mexico districts. Within hours, colleagues at other state think-tanks had published stories detailing the massive errors in their state's stimulus disclosure databases. By late-afternoon, ABC News and the L.A. Times had picked up the story, prompting an angry reaction from Democratic Congressman David Obey, who blasted the Administration's lax oversight of the nearly $1 trillion spending package.

Reporter Michael Noyes of the Montana Policy Institute investigated how his state could have received funding in 13 separate Congressional districts, when it has only one Representative.

Ed Pound, director of communications for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, tells the Montana Policy Institute that his organization posts whatever information is reported by stimulus grant recipients, and doesn't check to make sure it's actually true.

"Our job is data integrity, not data quality," he said.

The Recovery.Gov website was set up in February with a budget of $84 million.

Overall, Bill McMorris of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity calculates that $6.4 billion of the stimulus package has been distributed to 440 phantom Congressional Districts, which the Administration claims created over 28,000 jobs at a cost of $224,500 each.

The news of the mythical Congressional Districts comes on the heels of an admission by the Obama Administration that 60,000 jobs had to be cut from its latest stimulus report after finding faulty data from a dozen stimulus recipients.

Reported problems with the stimulus jobs data are so widespread that the Washington Examiner's David Freddoso and Mark Hemingway have published an interactive map of bogus jobs created or saved by the stimulus.

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