Love, Senator Stevens

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On Jan. 10, it was daylight for fewer than four hours in Fairbanks, Alaska (area population: 80,000). But according to reports in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, that was enough light for 30 FBI and other federal agents to raid LOVE Social Services’ (LSS) youth center and the home of its director, Mother Chris Hayes. Hayes lives with her husband, Pastor Jim Hayes, the former Fairbanks mayor and the minister of Lily of the Valley Church of God in Christ, which was also raided.

No official reason has been given for the surprise federal site visit, but speculation centers on the cornucopia of funds flowing into the tiny program via Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The group runs what it labels “mentoring and tutoring services” at the LSS youth center and at the Fairbanks Youth Facility, where pre- and post-adjudicated teens are confined. LSS, says its website, “seeks to end the process leading from one end of the continuum to the other.”

Huh? Well, the website seems to suffer from a continuum of neglect. It announces that LSS is “excited to list” its events ending in “the last quarter of 2004.”

LSS incorporated in September 2000. A month later, Stevens, the Senate’s No. 1 pork barreler, earmarked $1 million in the fiscal 2001 U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) budget for LSS. His office issued a press release touting the month-old group’s work with disadvantaged youth.

Over the next three years, the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) pumped almost $1.7 million into the faith-based operation. In fiscal 2005, the munificent Stevens earmarked yet another $175,000 from HUD for LSS.

Just what did the taxpayers get for their $2.72 million investment? LSS and its board of church officials purchased a church building for $375,000, using HUD funds. Hayes and his congregation also built a new church across the street, valued at $2.1 million. Another $150,000 from HUD went toward renovating the old church for the youth center.

LSS’ website and tax returns claim that the group serves 1,000 kids. Chris Hayes, in a brief interview, wasn’t sure of the number of participants, guessing that 25 to 30 kids attend per week.

At one time, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Alaska rented space at LSS for its own program, but it ended the arrangement. Says club Volunteer Coordinator Debbie Chapman, “Our numbers were very low.”

Over at the Fairbanks Youth Facility, Juvenile Justice Unit Supervisor Tim Oney says that “one or two volunteers” from LSS have tutored for “one hour per week,” beginning three months ago. That would place the LSS volunteers’ arrival around the same time as the Jan. 10 raid by federal agents. Chris Hayes, however, says her volunteers have worked at the juvenile corrections agency for “a couple of years.”

Chuck Barber, project director of the Alaska Mentoring Demonstration Project, a joint venture of Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Clubs of Alaska and Alaska Community Services, had never heard of LSS or its mentoring efforts until the raid three months ago. Several youth service providers in Fairbanks were equally in the dark about LSS’ mentoring efforts. Perhaps that’s because the LSS youth center is dark most of the time. According to its website, the program operates “Tuesday-Thursday, 3:00-7:00 p.m. Saturdays by Appointment.”

Stevens, 82, offered a defense of the federal grant-making to the Daily News-Miner, claiming that federal agencies ignore Alaskan programs – a claim that would make even Washington’s most hardened lobbyist guffaw. That assertion was vigorously backed up by Courtney Boone, Stevens’ press secretary, who cited the needs of Fairbanks’ African-American population, which, according to U.S. Census figures, numbers 3,370. Most of them are military personnel and their families at two nearby bases. Youth programs on military bases are widely recognized as setting the gold standard in after-school services.

In fact, “ignored” Alaska leads the nation in federal spending: $12,885 a year for each citizen. The citizens of Nevada, which has the lowest per capita federal spending, have to scrape by on $5,469. From 2001 to 2006, accord-
ing to Youth Today’s annual listing of earmarks in the children and youth field, Alaska received at least 141 earmarks, totaling $94.71 million. That’s about $83 per year, for each of those six years, for everyone in the state ages 0 through 17.

Nevada, with more than three times Alaska’s population, got little notice from Congress except as a convenient place to dump nuclear waste. Excluding earmarks totaling $12.75 million for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (some of which supports the National Center on Juvenile Justice in Pittsburgh), over those same six years, Nevada received 44 child- and youth-related earmarks. Those 44 earmarks totaled $23.38 million, or approximately $7.61 per year for each youth under 18 – about one-eleventh of what Alaskan kids received.

Alaskans don’t call federal earmarks “Stevens money” for nothing.

Stevens’s press secretary Boone says things are more expensive in Alaska. They are. LSS’ 2004 tax return lists $22,206 in janitorial expenses. But that’s the kind of fiscal prudence Stevens would approve of.

In a budget submitted to and approved by the OJJDP, covering LSS’ $1.72 million in noncompetitive federal grants over three years, LSS asked for $164,640 for “janitorial services and garbage collection.” The OJJDP also approved a travel budget of $121,500 for LSS’ paid staff of three and for up to four board members. Listed places to visit include Washington, D.C. (of course), Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oregon, as well as in-state travel to Juneau and Anchorage. That last all-expenses-paid flight to the Ted Stevens International Airport could come in handy; Anchorage is the location of the federal court for Alaska.

Every year under its OJJDP grants, LSS budgeted for 10 trash cans, an electronic postal scale, and a cash register. Its 2004 tax returns show direct public support of $2,473 and admission receipts of $8,199 – not a heavy workload for three cash registers.

One triplicate item may have been justified: paper shredders.

The OJJDP-approved budget calls for $790,726 in personnel costs for Chris Hayes, a student services coordinator and an administrative assistant. That’s $263,575 per year in budgeted staff costs. That’s $422 an hour for the 12-hour workweek, minus “Saturday by Appointment” expenses.

But LSS’ 2004 federal tax returns claim no compensation for Mother Hayes, and only $152,434 in salaries, wages and payroll taxes. However, the tax documents also say that none of the three staffers at LSS earned more than $50,000 – making the total payroll figure mathematically impossible outside of Lake Wobegone, where all the youth workers are below average. And that still leaves $111,141 per year unaccounted for.

That is, until Jan 10 – when IRS agents joined in the raiding party, perhaps finally putting those 30 trash cans to good use.

LSS’ six board members include the Hayeses’ daughter, LeNene Scott, and nephews Don and Joe Thomas, both deacons at the Lily of the Valley Church. Along with Pastor Hayes, at least four of the six board members are related. Count LSS as a faith-based organization that knows how to promote family value.

Oney, of the juvenile lockup, asks “Where did the money go? That’s what I want to know.”

Russian Roulette

Are all earmarks as tainted and underperforming as the ones for LOVE Social Services? One thing is certain: Nobody knows, and that includes Congress and the IRS. One recent earmark defender, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, concedes that “not every single project” that bypasses competitive grant making “can withstand robust scrutiny.”

True. Consider two more of Stevens’s 141 Alaska earmarks: $3.5 million over six years to Community in Schools (CIS), and $4.5 million over five years (including $500,000 this year) for the consortium of agencies known as the Alaska Mentoring Demonstration Project, run by Barber.

The project served 621 children in traditional, school-based and elder matches in rural Alaska, a reasonable return on investment. Each year, CIS Alaska serves some 1,623 youths in 19 schools in six communities from Anchor-
age to Mat-Su, an equally reasonable cost per youth served.

Two substantive youth work efforts out of three isn’t so great when the party of smaller government and the most vocal proponent of snuffing out waste, fraud and abuse is in power. But the deficiencies don’t stop there. The two successful efforts were undertaken by groups with established infrastructure to build on, and reputations (built on decades of tremendous effort) to protect. When President George W. Bush launched his faith-based initiative, it was based on the dubious premise that large social service agencies compete unfairly against faith-based groups like LSS.

A 2001 White House report, “Unlevel Playing Field,” complained of widespread bias against faith-based and community-based organizations in federal social service grant-making programs. Those funded “are typically large and entrenched, in an almost monopolistic fashion,” says the White House report, which set the policy framework for the faith-based initiative.

The Alaska experience confirms the 2001 estimate of Gary Bass, director of OMB Watch, that the faith-based initiative is a solution in search of a problem. Meanwhile, congressional earmarking is a corrosive problem in search of a solution!

But the days of wallowing in pork in Barrow and elsewhere throughout Alaska (and the lower 48) might be over. In 2005, the federal budget contained 15,877 earmarks totaling $53 billion.

Youth Today’s count of earmarks for youth for 2005 was 1,363 projects totaling $696 million. In 2006, driven by the elimination of earmarks in the Labor/Health and Human Services/Education appropriations bill, that fell to 671 earmarks totaling $249.7 million.

With earmarks in disrepute this year, thanks to the felonious behavior of Jack Abramoff and former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.), House members asked for only 3,602 earmarks totaling $14.9 billion for fiscal 2007. If the ratio holds from 2005 (the last time a full slate of youth earmarks were approved), youth programs can expect about 309 earmarks for about $196 million in 2007.

Contact: (907) 458-8400,

Allen Wrench

Abstinence-only sex education has long been the battle cry of the most militant wing of the GOP. One leading proponent of strict adherence to the Ten Commandments has been Claude Allen, whom one Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) colleague describes as “the leader of the God squad” in the Bush administration.

Jim Wagoner, president of D.C.-based Advocates for Youth, has tangled with Allen and his allies over sex-education issues since Allen became deputy secretary of HHS in early 2001. Says Wagoner: “Allen was the ideological czar” of the Bush administration’s approach to reproductive health issues.

In February, Allen unexpectedly resigned as chief domestic adviser to President George W. Bush. In March, it was revealed that Allen’s devotion to the Sixth Commandment – Thou Shall Not Commit Adultery – did not carry over to the Seventh Commandment – Thou Shall Not Steal. Allegedly, Allen had been systematically swindling at least two department stores in the Washington suburbs of Montgomery County, Md.

Allen’s alleged con – which police say netted over $5,000 by the time of his arrest in January – involved purchasing merchandise, immediately returning to the store, placing identical goods in a cart, and “returning” the non-purchased goods to the service counter for refunds.

After the news broke, Bush told reporters on March 11, “When I heard the story last night, I was shocked, and my first reaction was one of disappointment, deep disappointment.”

Allen’s White House job paid $161,000 a year. In October, he purchased a home for $958,300. If he paid 20 percent down, at 5.5 percent annual interest, he would be saddled with a mortgage payment of more than $5,000 per month. His monthly take-home pay with standard deductions, including his three children, would be about $8,500.

On Thursday, Oct. 27, Allen kicked off the ceremonies at the White House Conference on Helping America’s Youth, held at Howard University in Washington. Speakers included Bush and first lady Laura Bush, who is the titular head of the Helping America’s Youth initiative. The president told the crowd of 500, “I love to be here with the armies of compassion.”

That Saturday, say police – and, reportedly, a store videotape – Allen was helping himself on the first of 25 free shopping sprees.

Several weeks after he was nabbed, Allen was given a place of honor at the president’s State of the Union address, sitting in Laura Bush’s box.

Whoosh! In early February, Allen was gone without explanation beyond a perfunctory “spend more time with the family” alibi. Now he’s the man who never was. Interview requests to conservative groups about Allen’s public service accomplishments (not his shopping habits) were rebuffed. No one was available at the press room of the Family Research Council (FRC), run by Tony Perkins, or at Elayne Bennett’s Best Friends. Leslee Unruh, at the Abstinence Clearinghouse, would field e-mail questions only.
Only LeAnna Benn of the Spokane, Wash.-based Teen-Aid had enough class to utter a positive word about Allen, calling him “very supportive” of abstinence education. As Harry Truman said: “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

Political opponent Wagoner had no reluctance to comment, calling Allen “the express highway” for organizations to get federal funding in the AIDS and teen pregnancy prevention fields. Wagoner says that during Allen’s reign as “the chief ideologue” of reproductive health issues, he “terrorized CDC” (the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

One source reports that after news of Allen’s arrest broke, staffers at the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health “were calling me at 8 in the morning saying they were dancing.”

In assessing Allen’s success in promoting chastity, consider the fortunes of Unruh’s Abstinence Clearinghouse, which has enjoyed enormous growth under the Bush administration. In 2000, the Sioux Falls, S.D.-based organization had income of $121,202. By 2004, annual income was up by more than a million dollars, to $1.129 million. Unruh earned $109,920 as president that year, along with another $42,456 from the related Alpha Center, located at the same address. For that $152,376, according to the federal tax return from the two nonprofits, Unruh works 70 hours a week, or 10 hours a day, seven days a week.

With a schedule like that, abstinence must be easy.

Now the party line is that Allen was actually powerless at the White House; just a traffic cop for paper flow. Some argue that his predecessor, Margaret Spellings, took most of the substance and clout with her when she became secretary of education in January 2005.

The tightly wound Allen, whom one senior youth policy leader described as “somewhat sanctimonious,” is scheduled to appear in a Maryland criminal court on April 27. The 46-year-old faces up to 15 years in prison.