Accuracy in Media

In Washington, during congressional debate over President Bush’s “Leave no child behind” education initiative, Republicans have been arguing for an increase of 11 percent in spending by the Department of Education, while Democrats have been arguing for a 35-50 percent increase. The department currently operates on a budget of $44.5 billion a year. But the sad truth, which has escaped the attention of most of the major media, is that there is no real guarantee that any of this money will actually get to the students that may need it. This is because the Department of Education has been so mismanaged that it can’t account for the money that it is currently spending.

The amount of missing, mismanaged or stolen money reaches $6 billion. Outright looting and embezzlement of education department funds by agency officials in the Clinton administration cannot be ruled out, as there was no security over the obligation and disbursement of federal funds. Officials of the agency may have conspired to “cook the books” and spend more money than Congress had appropriated. This would be a violation of the federal anti-deficiency act, which bars federal agencies from disbursing more funds than authorized by Congress.

Stories about government waste, fraud and abuse are common, but the scandal at the Department of Education has reached a new and unprecedented level. This is an agency out of control. Yet the story remains largely untold. Recognizing the dimensions of the problem, Rep. Charles Norwood of Georgia has suggested the department be shut down until the problems are solved.

Revelations of the limited investigations conducted so far include twenty-one Department of Education employees who wrote a total of 19,000 checks in one year, without getting approval from any other official, totaling $23 million; employees using agency credit cards to buy items such as computers, software, cell phones and Internet service that may have been diverted to personal use; and $1.9 million of Department of Education grants intended for two school districts in South Dakota diverted to buy real estate and luxury sport utility vehicles.

Ignoring a Whistleblower

At a recent background briefing in Washington, D.C., a member of the leadership of the House of Representatives was asked about the case of John Gard, the whistleblower from the Department of Education who has sparked the numerous investigations into the department’s finances. The congressman had never heard of Gard. He was also not aware that the Department of Education had failed three straight audits and that the new secretary of education, Rod Paige, has expressed the hope that it may be able to pass an audit in about 18 months. This is the agency that Congress and the administration plan to give billions more dollars. It makes no sense.

John Gard has not sought the attention of the media. However, this is no excuse for ignoring his sensational charges, which have been the subject of Congressional hearings and an Office of Special Counsel (OSC) investigation. The OSC determined that his allegations of “gross mismanagement” to the tune of billions of dollars are true. When the OSC report was issued on January 31, the Associated Press ran a good story about Gard and some of his charges. But it was published back on page 21 of the Washington Post. This is typical of how the agency’s problems have been covered.

Whistleblower Talks to AIM

Gard was recently interviewed by Accuracy in Media, which has championed the cause of whistleblowers in the federal government. As damning as the OSC report was, Gard said it amounted to a whitewash because it failed to reveal the true extent of the corruption. He told a harrowing story of how he battled to expose waste, fraud and abuse in the department only to be made the target of reprisal and retaliation, eventually being escorted from agency property by armed federal security guards. Gard was a systems accountant in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer. He exposed serious problems in the department’s Grants Administration and Payment System (GAPS), under which dozens of agency employees were potentially able to funnel education department funds to their personal bank accounts or their friends and associates without being caught. The system was such that it was impossible for the department to monitor who was tapping into the money and how much was being diverted. It may be a stretch to say that all $6 billion was funneled out of the department in this way. Some may have been wasted or mismanaged. On the other hand, Gard asks the central question, “Where did the money go?” The system was so open to abuse that it may be impossible to determine how much money was stolen and by whom.

In one sensational incident, Gard found unsecured checks lying on top of an employee’s desk and reported the matter to the Office of the Inspector General of the department. These checks could have been cashed by the employee for personal use. For blowing the whistle, Gard said he was attacked by the then-chief financial officer, Donald Rappaport, as a “spy” who could not be trusted. In a filing with the OSC, which is part of the public record in the case, Gard’s lawyers also say that agency employees who helped cover up the agency’s “mismanagement, waste of funds and potential fraud activity” were rewarded with “enhanced job assignments, promotions, awards, recognition or enhanced office space.”

Gard said his concern all along has been that the agency obey the laws of the United States. He believes agency employees have violated several federal laws on financial record keeping and other related matters. He is still being paid, but he has no assigned duties. He spent most of his time on his lawsuit against the department. He is willing to return to the department under the Bush administration and try to help solve the problems which have plagued the agency. But his offer to do so has been ignored

Gard emphasizes that he is not advocating the elimination of the department but wants to see the funds that are disbursed recorded properly and accounted for. He has said, however, that the problems are so large that the department should be placed under the supervision of a special master appointed by a federal court or put into receivership. This has been done in the past with grossly mismanaged agencies of the Washington, D.C. city government.

Paige Turns the Page

The corruption problem is so massive that Secretary Paige was forced to hold a press conference on April 20 specifically on the issue of fraud and mismanagement in the department. Putting a happy face on the problem, it was at this event that he said his hope was that the agency could pass an audit in 18 months. Paige also announced that Deputy Secretary-designate Bill Hansen and Under-Secretary-designate Gene Hickok would head a reform effort. Hansen has been approached by one of Gard’s lawyers about Gard helping try to clean up the mess. Gard said he hasn’t heard anything back from Hansen.

At the press conference, Paige suggested the problem in the agency involved the mismanagement or loss of only $450 million, and that $250 million of that had been recovered. The $450 million figure was put forward at an April 3 Congressional hearing, where the agency’s inspector general testified. The hearing was covered by the Associated Press, the Washington Times on page 6, and the Washington Post back on page 21. This event also featured a discussion of the agency’s failure to pass three consecutive audits. However, the evening news programs of the three major networks completely ignored the hearing.

But Gard emphasizes that this $450 million figure is far too low. Both the AP and the Washington Post have noted a discrepancy with the Department of Treasury’s accounting of what the Department of Education has spent that amounts to $6 billion over the last three years under Secretary Richard W. Riley. Gard believes this is a more accurate figure reflecting the true amount of how much money is missing or unaccounted for. Again, this is because there was no security over the disbursement of federal funds when the agency implemented GAPS. Gard says that, despite the change in administrations, there’s still a reluctance to tell the American people about the full extent of the problem because both parties want to spend more on education.

Officials at Paige’s news conference claimed that financial problems are going to be addressed through the installation of a new software program, Oracle Federal Financials. Gard told us that this would not solve the GAPS disbursement and security problems that currently exist. Gard said the Oracle software may resolve some accounting problems if it is installed correctly. He said he knew of one federal agency that had used it properly. Ironically, it had been installed at the Corporation for National Service by one of his former associates at the Department of Education, after he had been relieved of his duties. The Department of Education has been without a chief financial officer for two years and it is apparent that the agency has had a very difficult time finding a new one. The agency has been without an Assistant Secretary for Management for five years. This suggests the problems are simply too large to be addressed and that the agency may not be salvageable

Honor Gard

President Bush has called upon federal employees to “disclose waste, fraud, abuse and corruption to the appropriate authorities.” Gard did just that and has suffered for it. He is suing the Department of Education. Gard should be compensated for the damage to his career. President Bush should restore Gard to his previous position or even promote him. If Secretary Paige wants to make sure that Department of Education money is used to “teach children,” he should take the initiative himself and immediately put Gard back to work. Yet Gard’s name was never raised during Paige’s news conference. That’s a strange way of encouraging employers to expose corruption. Yet, without Gard back at the department, it will be hard to have any confidence that the financial problems will be solved. The only reporter at the press conference who seemed familiar with the extent of the corruption was George Archibald of the Washington Times, who produced a page two story for that paper. Archibald has an understanding of the agency, having worked there under the president, Ronald Reagan, who wanted to abolish it

AIDS MONEY SCANDAL

Next to education, the most politically correct cause may be AIDS. The more money the better. The Bush administration was under fire early by the Washington Post because it was supposedly not moving fast enough in developing its own AIDS policy. Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post noted that two months into the new administration, “the only thing left of the White House Office of National AIDS policy is a Web site directing callers to an empty office with a telephone no one answers.” When Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card had initially said the White House was going to close the office, certain AIDS activists expressed outrage and the White House suddenly announced that the office would stay open. Then, President Bush appointed a homosexual activist, Scott Evertz, to run it. The media and the gay lobby had shown their clout.

Putting a homosexual in charge of stopping AIDS is like putting Hugh Hefner in charge of stopping the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. If one were serious about stopping AIDS, an ex-homosexual would be the best candidate for the White House post. The key to stopping AIDS is curtailing the practices involved in its spread, and one of those is homosexual sodomy. The media will emphasize the harmful effects of smoking tobacco but not engaging in sodomy

But not all AIDS activists seem to think more federal spending is the answer. The April issue of The Washington Monthly features a revealing article by an AIDS activist, Wayne Turner, a member of ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. He’s in favor of AIDS spending to help victims of the disease but he’s outraged by the waste, fraud and abuse in federal AIDS spending. He says the experience of those trying to expose funding abuses “shows that after a hard-fought 20 years, the AIDS epidemic has finally become a sacred cow. It is immune from budget cuts; even the Republican-controlled Congress has steadily increased federal AIDS funding, at times well beyond the Clinton administration’s request. The Ryan White CARE Act, a $1.7 billion program, was unanimously reauthorized by the 106th Congress last year.” It is named after a young person who died of AIDS.

Yet this is one of the programs characterized by waste, fraud and abuse. Under this act millions of dollars were paid to the San Juan AIDS Institute in Puerto Rico, which was supposed to help people with AIDS. One victim got one visit from a doctor from the institute who told him he was going to die. The doctor, Jorge Garib, was later sentenced to 10 years in prison for his involvement in an embezzlement scandal at the AIDS institute. Investigators said the money went for luxury cars, jet skis, pay-offs to the institute’s political benefactors, and a personal maid for Dr. Garib. In Texas, investigators found that federal dollars for an AIDS clinic went for shopping sprees at Nieman Marcus, home appliances, and telephone calls to a psychic hot-line. All of this was billed to the Ryan White CARE Act. In Florida, federal money supposedly for victims of AIDS went for Disney tickets, hotels, and restaurants. Wayne Turner”s article charges that federal officials permitted this to happen.

NEW YORK TIMES ON THE DEFENSIVE

At the New York Times annual meeting on April 17, Chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. was asked by Cliff Kincaid about the paper”s pro-gay bias that is becoming a national embarrassment. A year ago we had raised the issue of Jesse Dirkhising, the 13 year-old boy who was tortured to death by two homosexuals in Arkansas in September 1999. The media’s general failure to cover the murder stands in sharp contrast to the massive coverage of the death of Mathew Shepard, the gay college student in Wyoming. The Times hadn’t published a word on the Dirkhising case.

A year later, nothing had changed. In fact, when Cliff Kincaid mentioned Dirkhising’s name again, Sulzberger admitted that it didn’t ring a bell. The Times’ failure to cover the case was mentioned by John Leo of U.S. News & World Report in a recent column in which he said, “Since the murder, not one story about the Jesse Dirkhising case has appeared in the New York Times.” Andrew Sullivan of The New Republic, who is himself gay, told John Leo that the New York Times would rather go out of business than report the Dirkhising story.

This reflects a hard pro-gay bias. Kincaid noted that Richard Berke, the Times national political correspondent, has said openly that homosexuals have a dominant role at the New York Times. Specifically, here’s his quote: “There are times when you look at the front page meeting and literally three-quarters of the people deciding what’s on the front page are not-so-closeted homosexuals.” Cliff asked Sulzberger to comment on the paper’s pro-homosexual bias, and whether this is responsible for suppressing the Jesse Dirkhising story. Sulzberger said, “Well, I know Rick Berke very well, and I’m surprised he made a comment like that because it’s not true. But even if it were true, that would not bother me. You’d have to know the people sitting in those page one meetings, and I know that this is just false. But that is not the point.” He went on to claim that the Times is not embarrassed by its coverage on this or any other issue.

Sulzberger then added that he wanted to point out that a Fortune magazine survey of the world’s most admired companies concluded that the Times Company offered its customers the best service and product. “And I believe they are correct,” he said. Cliff protested at that point, “What does that have to do with suppressing this story?” His reply was “I don’t think we’re suppressing this story. We’ve got to move on now.” When Cliff reiterated that not one word had appeared in the Times on it, he said, “That’s what you say. I’ll take your word for it.” But still no explanation of this obvious pro-gay bias

Sulzberger didn’t say how many gays he thought were represented at the front-page meetings of the New York Times. Whatever the number, Sulzberger said it didn’t matter one way or another. But it DOES matter, and the Dirkhising case proves it. Last December, a Gallup poll found that confidence in the news media had hit a new low. Two-thirds of those polled didn’t trust the reporting, and there was no mention of the poll making an exception for the New York Times.

Sulzberger was not only put on the defensive regarding the paper’s coverage of gays, but of China. A.M. Rosenthal, forced by the Times into retirement, has written some excellent columns lately about human rights violations in China. However, they appear in the Times’ competitor, the New York Daily News. By contrast, the Times now runs columns by Tom Friedman, who, on the day of the New York Times annual meeting, had a column about progress in China.

Friedman described China as an authoritarian state. He didn’t use the term dictatorship. He went on to talk about the rise in personal freedoms in China, including the use of the Internet. Cliff asked Arthur Sulzberger and Martin Nisenholtz , the CEO of New York Times Digital who is responsible for the New York Times on the Web, about reports that ordinary Chinese citizens do not have access to the Internet and foreign sources such as the New York Times. He asked if this was true.

Nisenholtz acknowledged that it was, saying that the Times on the Web was not available in China unless you were able to hack into it. He said this was because the regime was blocking it. So the authoritarian government described by Friedman that is supposedly allowing people more personal and Internet freedom actually blocks access to the columns of Tom Friedman! But readers of Friedman’s column had no way of knowing that. Nizenholtz said the Times had “discussed this with the Chinese and made the point that we would very much appreciate the New York Times being distributed in China but obviously we can’t do any more than that.” Another Times official said they had run editorials and stories on this subject, but Friedman seemed to be unaware of them.

Times Mimics China TV

Cliff then asked Sulzberger about his paper’s preference for the term, “spy plane,” in describing the American EP-3 plane seized by the Chinese regime. The Pentagon referred to it as a surveillance or reconnaissance aircraft. It’s a lumbering plane that was on automatic pilot over international waters. The use of the term spy plane implied something suspicious and illegal. The Times preferred the Chinese term and, in an editorial, even defended the Chinese going aboard this plane and checking out the equipment, most of which was destroyed by the crew.

Cliff asked Sulzberger whether his paper was pandering to the regime or if it was just a coincidence that the Times used the same terminology employed by the official Chinese television agency. He replied, “I’m delighted to tell you that unequivocally the New York Times is not pandering to the Chinese regime.” He also denied that the Times had any business interests or investments in China, saying, “Not that I’m aware of. Not on purpose.”

Attacking Bush’s Anti-Missile Plan

The strange news judgment of the New York Times was on display once again when it ran a lead front page story on April 30th about how the Bush administration was preparing to break out of the ABM treaty in order to deploy a national missile defense system. The first paragraph of the story said the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty “has been the cornerstone of arms control for nearly 30 years.” The administration’s decision was depicted as alarming and dangerous.

But that claim about the treaty is false. The ABM treaty, which was signed with the Soviet Union, died when the Soviet Union broke apart. But the Times had a clever way of distorting that critical fact. In a box on page one next to the story itself, the Times explained that the ABM treaty was “later extended to Russia and other ex-Soviet nuclear states…” Extended? By whom? Treaties are supposed to be ratified by the U.S. Senate with a two-thirds vote. The “extension” of the ABM treaty was not even submitted to the Senate. It was “extended” at the whim of President Bill Clinton. This aspect of the controversy was not explained at all by the New York Times. What’s more, the Times completely ignored the evidence that the Soviets, and now the Russians, violated the ABM treaty.

The Clinton administration renegotiated the ABM treaty, signing agreements with the states of the former Soviet Union, but it refused to submit them to the Senate for ratification. This was a subject of bitter controversy. Senator Jesse Helms, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had asked for them to be submitted, knowing that they would be rejected

This background makes laughable the Times’ claim that the ABM treaty has been the “cornerstone” of arms control. But it’s even more ridiculous when you consider the evidence that the Soviets massively violated it. Former CIA/DIA official William T. Lee’s book, “The ABM Treaty Charade: A Study in Elite Illusion and Delusion,” proves that the Russians have violated the ABM treaty by integrating thousands of dual purpose anti-aircraft weapons with large radars that provide warnings of a missile attack. Lee says the Russians are set to obtain a big strategic advantage if they continue to improve their nuclear arsenal while we adhere to the ABM treaty.

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