Millions of Federal Slush Fund Dollars Flowing to Activists to Lobby Local Govts
by Judy Kent
Washington, DC/New York, NY - The National Center for Public Policy Research today is calling on Congress to investigate Obama Administration grants that the Administration's own agencies admit are being doled out for the purpose of changing state and local laws and regulations.
"The time has come for Congressional oversight hearings focused on how the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is handing out hundreds of millions of dollars in controversial grants to influence state and local laws, in violation of federal anti-lobbying provisions," says Jeff Stier, director of the National Center for Public Policy Research's Risk Analysis Division.
Stier made the call for hearings in an op-ed published in today's Roll Call, the newspaper of Congress.
The Investigator General of the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC's parent agency, which has been investigating the program, has already issued an "Early Alert" memo to the CDC citing concerns about the legality of the grants. Specifically, a preliminary investigation has found that reports from grant recipients across the country boast about how many statutes and regulations they were able to influence using federal dollars.
Representative examples of the dozens of grants that may have violated the law include:
* A $2.2 million grant to The California Department of Public Health used to "advance policy changes to limit the availability" of soda in schools, among other programs.
* Over $12 million in grants to groups in King County, Washington to influence policy, including an effort to "change zoning policies to locate fast food retailers farther from... schools."
In his op-ed, Stier points out that "[i]t is important here to distinguish between arguments about the merits of the CDC's health policy goals (soda taxes, smoking bans, etc.) and legitimate questions about the legality of how the agency hands out grants." In Roll Call, Stier outlines the CDC's outlandish and changing defenses of the abuse of federal spending, and argues that this should offend "even those who favor the progressive polices the CDC is openly advocating for at the local level."
Stier warns that "congressional oversight of this type of program is urgently needed because the CDC, which stands by the legality of the grants, is set to ramp-up similar programs with funds Congress has already authorized, from a few hundred million dollars, to $2 billion." Stier, a national authority on health policy programs, has written about these grants in op-eds in the Los Angeles Times, The Daily Caller and National Review. Stier, a New York City resident, has discussed soda taxes and calorie counts on CNBC, and recently appeared on CNN HLN to criticize Mayor Bloomberg's soda ban. Stier has also addressed related issues on Fox News, MSNBC, and top radio shows around the country.