SEN. STEVENS FEEDING HAPPY THE HIPPOPOTAMUS: One of them is where he belongs – behind bars.
Wondering about that weeping and chattering of teeth you may hear emanating from the corner offices of hundreds of national and local youth-serving agencies this winter? It’s the fiscal fallout from earmarks being zeroed out of this year’s federal budget. Earmark losers – such as the Girl Scouts of America, Big Brothers Big Sisters and America’s Promise/The Alliance for Youth – are scrambling to repair the collateral damage from congressional scandal and President George W. Bush’s Babylonian adventure.
Among the 55 earmarked grantees just from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) that face drastic, even fatal, budget and staff cutbacks: the Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation, the Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence, the National Crime Prevention Council, the National Institute on State Policy on Trafficking of Women and Girls, and Youth for Justice, a consortium of national law-related education groups, all based in Washington. Says a distraught Executive Director Beverly Glenn, whose 10-year-old Hamilton Fish Institute at George Washington University works on school safety issues: “We’ll be out of business by February ’08.” Last year, the group’s sole source of income was a $1.9 million OJJDP earmark.
But what was lost in a Capitol Hill flushing of some 16,000 earmarks, totaling $64 billion, is a gain for those tens of thousands of youth programs that don’t have a member of Congress or a paid lobbyist to help them politely pickpocket the American taxpayer.
The demise of noncompetitive congressional handouts (at least for this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30) can be credited to the actions of five white guys in tailored suits during that despicable assembly known as the 109th Congress. Three of the five – designated lobbyist black hat Jack Abramoff, crashed top gun Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.) and golf aficionado Bob Ney (R-Ohio) – are now in federal slammers. A fourth, Tom Delay (R-Texas), is occupying himself with building his 19th-century Texas orphanage for the 21st century.
North Pole Scrub
Unfortunately, the fifth culprit who deserves credit for the fatal overdose by earmark of the GOP-controlled 109th Congress remains in the Senate: Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), the 83-year-old king of rotten pork. Stevens, notes political columnist Robert Novak, has a “famous hair-trigger temper” and will not countenance any second-guessing on his earmark picks.
A Youth Today examination of children and youth earmarks found that Alaska’s per-capita harvest of cash from 2001 through 2006 came to $83 a year for every state resident under 18, the highest rate in the nation. Nevada, with $7.61 per child, came in last.
While Stevens’ $223 million bridge to nowhere won deserved national opprobrium, outside of Alaska, only Youth Today (see Nose Knows, April 2006) bothered to report on Love Social Services Center (LSSC) in Fairbanks. That mostly phantom youth services agency received a lovin’ spoonful of Stevens’ earmarks from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and OJJDP that totaled at least $2.7 million from fiscal 2001 through 2005.
LSSC was incorporated in 2000 by Pastor Jim Hayes, now 61, of the Lily of the Valley Church of God in Christ, and his wife, Mother Chris Hayes, now 56. It received Stevens’ initial no-strings gift of $997,800 (of, as Rush Limbaugh likes to say, your money) a few weeks later from HUD.
The Hayes’ earmark piggybank hit the rocks on Jan. 10, 2006, when a gaggle of federal agents raided the two buildings controlled by the Hayes, as well or their home.
Now a grand jury has spoken, 92 times. That’s the number of criminal counts the Hayeses were charged with in federal court in Anchorage.
The grants from OJJDP to LSSC, mandated by Stevens, totaled $1,724,850. Those grants, says the indictment (quoting from LSSC’s HUD grant application), were to “focus on student dropouts and adults interested in high school and post-secondary education.”
The funds were supposedly to serve Fairbanks’ tiny African-American community of 3,370, most of them living on two military bases that are justly known for their excellent youth programs.
But according to the indictment (http://newsminer.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/photo/2007/01/hayes_final_indictment.pdf), the Hayeses embezzled $450,000 in HUD and OJJDP funds in an orgy of self-indulgence, including:
• Two tickets from Alaska to London.
• $1,900 for the wedding reception of their son. Young James Hayes once worked in the Senate for Stevens while living in Stevens’ Washington home.
• Leasing a Mercedes for Mother Hayes.
• Clothing from Rochester Big and Tall, in San Francisco.
• $3,369 for a plasma TV in the Hayes’ home.
• Several hundred thousand dollars, intended for a youth program in Pastor Hayes’ old church building, for constructing a new church across the street.
• At least $73,000 – designated for a new gym floor in the barely functioning LSSC youth center – for a floor that was actually installed in the church.
• $847.40 for a plaque in the Pastor James C. Hayes Fellowship Hall, reading “Thank You for Your Contributions towards the Gymnasium Floor!” Maybe it should be named the Flores Floor, in honor of OJJDP Administrator J. Robert Flores.
After racking up $466,563.81 in “unlawfully taken funds,” as the indictment says, one imagines the auditors pleading with the U.S. Attorney’s office to call it quits up on the Arctic Circle so they could go home: “Isn’t 92 counts enough?”
So we may never know where more than $2 million in remaining earmarks went, but that money provided, at best, minimal help for teens.
Stevens, ever his sleazy self, reacted to the indictment of the former mayor of Fairbanks and his wife by blaming those ever-convenient faceless bureaucrats. In a 2004 interview with the Fairbanks Daily-News-Miner, Stevens said of Pastor Hayes, “He had an idea to develop a center, and I helped get some money to do that.” He added that the Hayeses “don’t get any personal gain out of it.”
But after the indictments, weasel Stevens told the newspaper, “We don’t ‘give’ anybody money.” When Congress earmarks funds, Stevens said, “It gives the direction to a department or agency to provide the assistance if the people are qualified.”
If you believe that bold-faced lie, then you’ll believe that Santa Claus has his workshop in North Pole, a Fairbanks suburb.
Deciding to make the multiple grants to LSSC and monitor spending, insisted Stevens – the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee during the years in question – “is a follow-on to the executive branch process.”
In an interview with the Fairbanks newspaper three days later, Stevens claimed that his staff members “scrub” all earmark requests, but refused to provide any documentation of that process relating to LSSC and the Hayeses, his political allies.
Asks the conservative Heritage Foundation of the LSSC rip-off, “Could there be any clearer example of cronyism” than Stevens’ now-frozen love for the Hayeses?
In his State of the Union Address in January, Bush told Congress and the nation: “In 2005 alone, the number of earmarks grew to over 13,000 and totaled nearly $18 billion. … The time has come to end this practice. So let us work together to reform the budget process, expose every earmark to the light of day and to a vote in Congress, and cut the number and cost of earmarks at least in half by the end of this session.”
Last year Congress eliminated earmarks in the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. So in the youth field, this year’s earmark purge affects funding mostly from the Justice Department and the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Nose Knows is always pleased to back the president. But in Congress, pork skullduggery, while going to ground in fiscal 2007, may reappear in next year’s budget, scrubbed of its current fetid aroma.
In December, incoming Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) agreed to pass a $463.5 billion appropriations bill for 2007 that strips out an estimated 10,000 earmarks. Among them are 364 earmarks totaling $104 million in the budget of OJJDP. In a joint statement, the chairmen announced, “We will work to restore an accountable, above-board, transparent process for funding decisions and put an end to the abuses that have harmed the credibility of Congress.”
The continuing budget resolution, since signed into law, is “a clean bill,” says Ron Utt, an earmark critic and senior research fellow for the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
The non-earmarked money can be spent the old-fashioned way: through competitive program announcements, with proposals judged on their merits. At least that’s the theory. OJJDP Administrator Flores and his boss, Regina Schofield, assistant attorney general for the Office of Justice Programs, declined to address how newly freed-up funds will be awarded. One source says Schofield has said all grant decisions will be made competitively.
This new and welcomed workload will land in an anemic OJJDP. It once had a staff of 119 and now, from diligent clerks to worthless jerks, has a staff of 63. After a series of mission shrinks, OJJDP now has no independent research or training capabilities. Worse, its planning abilities seem to be nonexistent.
That’s not going to prevent Flores and Schofield from being among the most popular public officials in Washington. With the funding action shifting to the executive branch, at least for this year, political appointees and civil servants can expect a charm offensive from their once-haughty earmarked grantees.
Invariably, one group that OJJDP Administrator Flores has shunned is the Coalition for Juvenile Justice (CJJ), the D.C.-based group that represents more than 40 of the states’ gubernatorially appointed juvenile justice advisory groups, known as the SAGs (for State Advisory Groups). Nancy Gannon Hornberger is its executive director.
Its funding from OJJDP, none of it “earmarks” per se, peaked at almost $900,000 in the closing years of the Clinton administration. A series of policy clashes with Flores and other Bush administration appointees resulted in a steady drop in CJJ’s funding. The group’s last federal funding, $300,000 in fiscal 2006 to train SAG members, was recently lost. The contest for those funds went to Bethesda, Md.-based Development Services Group (DSG), run by Alan Bekelman.
With no federal funds, CJJ might have returned to its 1979 roots as a loose collection of SAG chairs. But Gannon Hornberger has worked hard to win foundation support for various juvenile justice policy and training issues. The CJJ now has a budget of $550,000, none of it federal funds, and a staff of six, including its affiliated National Juvenile Justice Network, directed by Sarah Bryer.
That leaves CJJ poised to lead efforts to reauthorize (and overhaul) the now 23-year-old Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, on the agenda of the 110th Congress. The CJJ is chaired by Dr. Robin Jenkins, North Carolina’s SAG chairman and executive director of Cumberland County CommuniCare, Inc., in North Carolina.
The CJJ will convene “The Summit on Reauthorization of the JJDPA” in Washington June 9-12. The conference will be underwritten by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as part of its $100 million Models for Change initiative.