AUGUST 11, 2009
In yet another example of waste and fraud in President Obama’s highly touted stimulus program, more than $1 billion has gone to dozens of highly questionable projects at remote airports that didn’t meet the grant criteria and to facilities with a history of mismanaging federal money.
The latest stimulus corruption was exposed recently by the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General, which conducted an investigation into how the agency is spending nearly $50 billion in stimulus funds, supposedly for crucial infrastructure projects at the nation’s key airports.
Instead, the inspector general says in a report, a portion of the money has gone to costly and unnecessary projects that had no business getting emergency federal funding. Among them is a $14 million infusion to replace the airfield in a remote Alaska town (Akiachak) of about 650 residents located only 14 nautical miles from the state’s fourth-largest airport. Another $15 million went to replace a separate tiny Alaska town’s (Ouzinkie, population 167) gravel runway even though its harbor is equipped with a seaplane landing area.
Other stimulus-funded projects at remote facilities that didn’t qualify include nearly $5 billion for a new taxiway in Findlay Ohio, $2.2 million for a runway extension at Wilbur Airport in Washington, $2 million for an apron at Missouri’s Warrensburg-Skyhaven Airport and nearly $1 million to design a runway at a small Dover, Delaware airport. None of the facilities have commercial passenger service and have extremely limited operations, the inspector general points out.
Additionally, four substantial grants went to recipients with a documented history of misusing government money. They include Guam International Airport Authority, Puerto Rico Port Authority, Owensboro-Daviess County in Kentucky and Pitkin County in Colorado.
While the stimulus money was injected directly to the Department of Transportation, the notoriously deficient Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) distributed the portion that went to airports, perhaps explaining the unorthodox selection process and inevitable waste of tax dollars.
This marks several of many serious problems with Obama’s massive $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which he promised would jumpstart the economy and put Americans back to work. That has clearly not materialized, though rampant waste and fraud has surfaced repeatedly in the president’s heavily promoted plan.
Earlier this month an investigation that reviewed thousands of stimulus programs nationwide revealed that tens of billions of dollars will likely be lost to waste, fraud and abuse by the time all the money is spent. A lengthy report (A Second Opinion on the Stimulus) lists examples of waste that include a $3 million turtle crossing in northern Florida, the $10 million renovation of an abandoned train station that has been shut for three decades and 10,000 dead people getting Social Security stimulus checks.
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