Both amendments represent action on OpenTheBooks.com research.
WASHINGTON — OpenTheBooks.com is applauding the Senate for approving two amendments Tuesday as part of its appropriations work for 2024, each addressing research findings from the nonprofit watchdog. The first amendment (S.Amdmt. 1177), sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) requires government agencies to report on the impact of telework on taxpayer-funded services and the ongoing costs of holding empty office space. It comes after a GAO report found upwards of 75 percent of headquarters office space sat unused by most agencies. The second amendment (S.Amdmt. 1200), sponsored by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) prohibits tax dollars from being sent to Chinese corporations.
The telework amendment comes on the heels of research findings from OpenTheBooks.com and Sen. Ernst, detailed in this report, “Seeking Daylight on the Administrative State,” which highlighted an exchange between OMB Director Kiran Ahuja and Rep. Nancy Mace (R-N.C.). During questioning, it became clear Ajuha could not quantify the number of bureaucrats still phoning it in from home. The remote work has lasted so long its even spurred fellow Democrat Mayor Muriel Bowser to apply pressure to the Biden administration.
Per the report, the 2022 Biden Administration payroll had 350,861 names redacted from a FOIA production. For comparison, the Obama administration in FY2016 only had 2,300 redacted names. Locations of the workers were redacted 281,656 times. “Senator Joni Ernst has joined our organization…in demanding answers to three questions that should be simple,” the report says. “Who is working? Where are they? What on Earth are they doing for us? As recent testimony by OPM Director Ahuja shows, the feds just don’t want us to know.”
The amendment regarding funding to Chinese entities comes on the heels of more reporting from OpenTheBooks.com and Senator Ernst, highlighting that at least $1.3 billion has flowed to Chinese and Russian entities since 2017, $490 million of it into China. For example, the Pentagon gave $6 million of taxpayer funds for tech support of the military “deployment distribution command” software – delivering equipment and supplies anywhere our military is deployed, even though the DOD Inspector General warned the Pentagon about using Chinese IT companies on DOD projects. In another instance, $1.6 million from the National School Lunch Program went to Dalian Jiahe Real Estate Broker Co. Ltd., to “assist states, through cash grants and food donations, in providing a nutritious nonprofit lunch service for school children and encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities.”
More astonishing examples are detailed in the report, which spurred Sen. Ernst to introduce the TRACKS Act. That legislation would require awardees to report on how they further delegate federal funds and where they may end up.
OpenTheBooks.com Founder & CEO Adam Andrzejewski released this statement:
“It was a heartening day for transparency and accountability in the United States Senate. What we found in our research was that much of the funding going to adversarial nations is never fully recognized because the government lacks a method to follow every dollar to its final destination. As grants and contracts turn into subawards and subcontracts, accountability for the use of those dollars begins to evaporate. It’s an easy call to bar any funding that bolsters the Chinese economy at a time when that tensions with that nation are so high, and intelligence agencies around the globe say they’re stealing intellectual property at a record pace.
“The federal government continues to hide huge tracts of information that should be public knowledge. That’s no different when it comes to accountability for its own employees. In one infamous example, an employee at the Department of Veterans Affairs shared on social media that they were working from a bubble bath as veterans waited long hours on the phone trying to secure medical appointment. President Biden’s 2023 Budget asked for the biggest pay raise for federal workers in forty years, this despite all the dubious work product. If these staffers are going to work at home endlessly, we need to understand how it’s effecting the services we pay for in taxes. At the same time, we need to figure out how much money is going down the drain keeping the lights on in empty offices. This amendment will force the Biden administration to admit to the problem and give taxpayers a vehicle to demand solutions.”
Both amendments were attached to the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations act and would apply to the broader Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2024.
"Time’s Up for Biden’s Bureaucrat Hide-and-Seek,” Press Releases, Ernst.senate.gov.
"Senate Passes Hawley Amendment to Budget Bill Blocking Taxpayer Funds to Chinese Corporations,” Press Releases, Hawley.senate.gov
"Washington has sent more than $1.3 billion to China and Russia. Who’s following the money?,” Andrzejewski & Ernst, USA Today.
"$1.3 billion in U.S. taxpayer money funded the Dragon (China) and the Bear (Russia) since 2017,” Andrzejewski, OpentheBooks.substack.com.
"Seeking Daylight on the Administrative State,” Andrzejewski, OpentheBooks.substack.com.