Tens of Millions from Economic Stimulus Spent on Trivial Projects, GOP Report Claims

By Fred Lucas | June 17, 2009 | 3:45 PM EDT

Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) (AP Photo)

White House (CNSNews.com) - About $15 million in taxpayer funds went to repairs for little-used bridges in rural Wisconsin. Nearly $10 million went to renovate an abandoned train station that has not been used in three decades. Also, $3.4 million went to an “eco-passage” for Florida wildlife to safely pass under a highway.

These were a few of the projects mentioned in a report from the office of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), one of the Senate’s biggest fiscal hawks, in criticizing how money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) is being spent.

The $787-billion ARRA is popularly known as the economic stimulus bill, which passed largely along party lines earlier this year. Coburn’s report on the stimulus spending is entitled, 100 Stimulus Projects: A Second Opinion, a play on the senator’s professional training as a physician.

“The American people have a right to know how their stimulus dollars are being spent. In too many cases, stimulus projects are wasting money we don’t have on things we don’t need,” Coburn said in a statement.

“Rather than growing our economy, the overall impact of stimulus spending may prove to be harmful to our economy,” says the statement. “For example, Washington’s efforts to ‘stimulate’ the economy are increasing utility costs, repairing bridges nobody uses, building tunnels for turtles, and renovating extravagant train stations in remote areas while widely used bridges and roads in poor shape are passed over.”

The White House rebutted the Coburn report, claiming it was filled with inaccuracies.
“A number of things looked to be inaccurate in the ‘Second Opinion.’ There appear to be assumptions that projects are being funded using recovery money,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said June 16, though he did not specify what parts of the report were inaccurate.

“I think the very first project being outlined was a decision made by the state,” said Gibbs. “I think there are a number of entries throughout the report that are just simply wrong. This president has taken historic steps to ensure that there is adequate transparency and that this money is spent the way it was intended to be used. There are projects within the report that have been followed with intensity.”

Asked by a reporter if any of the examples from the Coburn report were correct, Gibbs said, “I have not looked through each and every one of them.”

The Coburn report also said that $800,000 in stimulus money went to the John Murtha Airport in Johnstown, Pa. The airport named for Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) has been criticized by fiscal watchdogs as an airport that essentially no one uses.

In what the report called “the biggest earmark of all time,” $1 billion went to Mattoon, Ill., for a power plant that may never work.

A Nevada non-profit organization received $2 million in stimulus money for a weatherization contract, even though it had recently been fired from the same project, according to the report.

The Coburn report further cites $1.15 million for installation of a new guard rail “for the non-existent Optima Lake in Oklahoma.” In addition, the report said that 10,000 people received stimulus checks.

And the town of Union, N.Y., was “encouraged to spend a $578,000 grant it did not request for a homeless problem it claims it does not have,” the report said.