Obama Earmarks Like Patronage: Par For Course

Published September 25, 2008

Dear Editor:

Reporters Chris Fusco and Dave McKinney remind us about the culture of our legislators throwing away taxpayers’ money on dubious projects that never come to fruition (“Obama grant being probed $100,000 DEAL,” September 25). The recent expose’ concerning a small political donor and his wife, who set up non-profit corporations and received an Obama earmark for $100,000 to build a “community garden,” barely registers in Chicago as unusual or unseemly.

The Englewood neighborhood is a notorious food desert that may have benefitted from locally grown organic foodstuffs, and it is shameful the NeighborSpace felt the need to abandon this garden effort and return vacant lots to the city. Obama calls for the $100,000 earmark funds to be returned if it is determined the funds were spent unwisely.

But millions are spent each year by our state elected officials on pet projects that never happen. This week, a school formerly located at Pilgrim Baptist Church was ordered to repay a full $1 million awarded incorrectly by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. In 2002, the Illinois attorney general sued a Westside agency for mis-spending a $175,000 state grant that was supposed to be used for a job-training program for low-income mothers.

Stoning the junior senator from Illinois for such systemic political waste is tantamount to feigning shock that the City of Chicago and Cook County still engage in patronage hiring in spite of Shakman decrees.

Ralph W. Conner ([email protected]) is local legislation manager at The Heartland Institute.