- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 7, 2010

UPDATED:

‘Phantom’ ZIPs

Not only has the government Web site created to track stimulus spending incorrectly allocated billions of tax dollars to “phantom” congressional districts, it’s allocating money to ZIP codes that don’t exist, as well. Researchers at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity released a study on their Web site, www.watchdog.org, on Wednesday that found the government is attributing $375 million in stimulus funds to 171 erroneous ZIP codes on its tracking Web site, Recovery.gov.

“It’s the exact same things as what happened with the phantom districts,” Franklin Center President Jason Stverak told The Washington Times.

But the White House says these are just examples of simple human error. Ed Pound, communications director for the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, called the study “superficial reporting at its worst.”

He pointed out to The Washington Times the money was properly accounted for in other documents available through Recovery.gov, showing what projects the money was paying for and where they are located. Also, he said errors like these were already being corrected.

“We did an analysis and there are about 400 ZIP code entries of 131,000 reports where people either typed in the wrong number or misentered it,” he said. “We’re talking about clerical errors here.” New Mexico’s Watchdog editor and Rio Grande Foundation reporter Jim Scarantino, who also broke the story about Recovery.gov allocating money to nonexistent congressional districts last November, was the first to notice the bad ZIP codes being listed in his own state.

“As in the case of the phantom congressional districts, the dollar magnitude of the errors we found in little New Mexico was eclipsed by the repetition of these glaring reporting errors across the nation,” he reported Monday. “If we can find nonexistent ZIP codes, we have no doubt that our counterparts in other states, which have received much more money, will again be able to repeat and expand upon our results for the Land of Enchantment.”

Watchdog.org is a project of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a nonprofit dedicated to aggregating and highlighting reporting from state and local journalists to promote government transparency.

CAP’s argument

A health care specialist at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress is making the case for keeping C-SPAN cameras away from health care negotiations, despite President Obama’s campaign promises of airing them.

Igor Volsky, health care researcher and blogger for the think tank, which has close ties to the Obama administration, says letting cameras cover the process to amend differences between the House and Senate’s versions of the bills called “reconciliation,” would be not be useful to the public.

“When it comes to legislating, transparency is overrated,” he wrote in a post for CAP’s Wonk Room blog. He added that White House press briefings have not increased the public’s understanding of the political process since being aired on television, either. “Rather, it created additional opportunity for political theater and posturing,” he blogged.

But, those who want the reconciliation process taped are quick to remind that Mr. Obama promised several times while campaigning for president he would air it.

Conservative activist Andrew Breitbart posted a video montage on www.breitbart.tv. showing Mr. Obama saying this many times in various interviews, speeches and debates. One portion of the video showed Mr. Obama speaking to the editors of the San Francisco Chronicle in January 2008 saying, “These negotiations will be on C-SPAN, and so the public will be part of the conversation and will see the choices that are being made.”

When asked whether Mr. Obama should have taken a different approach during the campaign, Mr. Volsky said the promise was “unrealistic” to being with.

“I don’t think he would have lost the election if he had not made that promise, and I suspect that the very same people who are now demanding he open up the negotiations were fairly skeptical of it as well,” he told The Washington Times in an e-mail.

“There is some difference between what candidates say on the campaign trail and what they do once they’re confronted with the reality of Washington. The reality is, as I point out in my post, even if the final negotiations were filmed, the real deals would still be made behind closed doors. Everything would just take longer. I think Obama has two choices: film the hearings and delay reform or keep the cameras out and get it done before the end of the month. Either way, C-SPAN cameras won’t improve the quality of the final product.”

Myrick’s warning

Rep. Sue Myrick, North Carolina Republican, says there’s been a cover-up when it comes to talking about the connection between Islam and terror.

The congresswoman, who is a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has recently produced two videos of herself talking about what she thinks the Obama administration and the media is hiding from the public.

“You’re not being told the whole story about why these incidents are happening,” she warned in a video made after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to destroy a U.S.-bound aircraft. “There is a radicalization going on this country and across the world that has a great effect on our national security.

“There are people who are literally willing to blow themselves up like this guy did, to commit jihad because they believe in a bigger cause, and that cause is what they want to do to us. They want to destroy Western democracy, they want to bring down America, they want us to live by their rules. This is something that nobody ever tells you.”

This isn’t the first time she’s spoken out on the subject, either. Mrs. Myrick wrote the forward for a book “Muslim Mafia” that was released in October.

“Since the 1960s, there has been a concerted effort on the part of radical Islamists to infiltrate our major institutions,” she said in the book. “Front groups of terror now operate openly in our country, comprising a network of support for jihadists.”

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@washingtontimes.com.

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