The potentially bright future of conservative journalism has been on full display the past two days, as conservative journalists and citizen watchdogs have exposed both the deceptions and incompetence of the government in its reporting of federal “stimulus” spending.
The Washington Examiner did the country a service Monday when it mapped the lies of bureaucrats who falsely boasted that they had “created or saved” tens of thousands of jobs. And today, Watchdog.org, an online publication of the nonprofit Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, reported that the federal Web site tracking the stimulus expenditures shows that $6.4 billion was spent in House districts that don’t even exist.
More than $2 million was given to the 99th District of North Dakota, a state which has only one congressional district. … The stimulus revived eight recently retired congressional districts. Pennsylvania’s 21st District has received just under $2 million in funds. Mississippi’s 5th District and Oklahoma’s 6th received $1 million from the legislation, respectively. All three were eliminated by the 2000 census.
Many other recipients carried the banner for congressional districts that have been defunct for decades. South Carolina’s 7th took the cake, garnering more than $27 million in stimulus funds, despite being eliminated in 1930. And Virginia’s 12th District may have been written off at the start of the Civil War, but it must carry some sentimental value in Old Dominion — it received more than $2 million, according to Recovery.gov.
The stimulus helped to create 35 congressional districts in Washington, D.C., and the four American territories, all of which have no congressional districts. These areas received $5 [billion] of the $6.4 billion distributed to the non-existent districts.
The Franklin Center has citizen watchdogs across the country, and the one in New Mexico first reported the disconnect between congressional reality and the government data. Reports from watchdogs in Kansas, Ohio, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire and West Virginia followed. The Franklin Center then pulled together the data from all states into one document by using the information on Recovery.gov.
Fox News cited the Franklin Center’s work in a story that quoted an irritated David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. “When you cite the jobs created in congressional districts that don’t exist, I think that strikes anyone from the White House on down as being more than stupid,” Obey said. He added, “In my judgment, someone who doesn’t know which congressional district they’re in doesn’t have enough of a clue to receive taxpayer money in the first place.”
ABC News compiled its own report on the phantom congressional districts Monday. The network curiously touted the story as an exclusive even though the center’s watchdogs were reporting the news independently the same day. ABC’s data also is not as comprehensive as what the center released in its follow-up piece today.
Regardless of who ultimately gets credit for breaking the story, it’s obvious that the Franklin Center played a key role into pushing the story into the mainstream. Couple that fact with the creative online aggregation work of the Examiner’s investigative team and conservatives have two excellent case studies for how to shape the public discourse by producing quality journalism.