Real Clear Investigations: #WasteOfTheDay Week 155 25_wotd_wk_155

January 29, 2024 12:50 PM



The EPA Spent $620,000 On Guns And Ammo

January 29, 2024


Topline: The Environmental Protection Agency isn’t traditionally associated with ranged weaponry, but the federal government has spent almost $620,000 since 2018 to buy guns, ammunition, and more for EPA employees.

Key facts: Auditors at found that between 2018 and 2022, the EPA spent close to $400,000 of federal funds just on ammunition. That came after the EPA purchased 500,000 rounds of ammo and 600 guns from 2010-2017.

Over $100,000 went to buying armor for EPA employees. Funds were also used for “optical sighting and ranging equipment,” for “night vision equipment” and “security vehicles.”

Background: The EPA has a Criminal Enforcement Program, which had a budgetof more than $70 million in 2023. Its goals include “protecting communities with environmental justice concerns” and curbing illegal sales of pesticides. 

The EPA also has its own Office of Homeland Security, which provides “systemic preparation” for climate and environment related threats. Its budget was nearly $90 million last year.

Those divisions include 259 employees with job titles of “Criminal Investigation” or some similar variation. Those employees collectively earned almost $32 million in salary last year, with 217 of them making six figures.

Several other seemingly-docile federal agencies, including Social Security Administration and the Department of Labor, have spent hundreds of thousandson weaponry.

In July 2023, House Republicans introduced a resolution that would strip the EPA and some other departments of their weapons funding. An amendment to the EPA appropriations bill passed by voice vote in September.

The EPA’s budget and workforce have both increased each year under President Joe Biden.

Critical quote: “There was a pretty extreme edge to the regulatory enforcement agents that interacted with my constituents, especially in rural areas,” said Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.). “I was surprised to find that these regulatory agencies had armed police officers rolling up into my constituents’ properties to enforce their regulations.”

Supporting quote: “The authority for EPA special agents to carry weapons has garnered long-standing and broad bipartisan support,” an agency spokesperson said. “Our agents carry weapons as a critically important public safety measure, for the safety of the agents themselves, and for EPA’s ability to effectively enforce environmental laws.”

Summary: It costs $620,000 to provide sufficient weaponry for the EPA, a government agency that normally focuses on creating and enforcing protocol from behind a desk.



Elite Universities Received $45 Billion In Public Funds Since 2018

January 30, 2024

Topline: You might expect that your tax dollars are being used to fund public universities, and that elite, private institutions are able to hold their own with little government support.

That’s not the case. Auditors at found that 10 of America’s wealthiest colleges have received $45 billion in federal money since 2018. That figure includes $33 billion in contracts and grants and $12 billion in tax breaks.

The list includes the eight schools of the Ivy League, as well as Stanford University and Northwestern University.

Key facts: The 10 universities collectively received more money from the federal government than from undergraduate tuition.

Stanford University benefited the most, taking in $7 billion in taxpayer money. Columbia University was the biggest recipient of direct grants, earning $5 billion.

Because the universities are considered charitable institutions, they pay just a 1.4% tax rate on increases to their endowments, instead of the typical 20% capital gain tax for wealthy individuals. This policy benefited Harvard University and Yale University the most, since their endowments both increased by more than $11 billion between 2018 and 2022.

Some of the grants were used to fund research studies with arguable merit. One Stanford study use almost $2 million to analyze how college students are affected by retail marijuana. Yale used $600,000 to look at the “impacts of mobile technology on work, gender gaps, and norms.”

Background: The $45 billion that the 10 universities received since 2018 is larger than any U.S. public universities’ entire endowment. The University of Texas led public schools with a $43 billion endowment, as of 2021.

Five of the 10 universities included in the OpenTheBooks audit were also among the top 10 in the country at generating private donations in 2018, right before the audit began. So, it’s not as if they were strapped for cash.

Auditors found no significant difference in the amount of federal money doled out to elite institutions between the administrations of Presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Many elite institutions have come under fire in recent months, with some top Republicans claiming that the schools are spreading antisemitism. Trump called for an increase in taxes on these universities’ endowments, while presidential candidate and former SC Gov. Nikki Haley said federal funds should stop being dispersed to these schools.

In December, Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) introduced a bill that would levy a 35% tax on any college endowments above $10 billion. 

Summary: Even with recent controversy, it’s still unknown when or if federal funding to elite, private universities will decrease. It’s hard to ignore the fact that these colleges are at the forefront of both the educational and scientific fields, but the impact on taxpayers also can’t be dismissed.


Throwback Thursday: Congressmen Take Trip to Galapagos Islands on Taxpayers’ Dime

February 01, 2024


Throwback Thursday! 

Topline: An all-expenses paid trip to the Galapagos Islands probably sounds like a dream come true to most Americans, albeit an unrealistic one.

Yet that’s exactly what five members of the House of Representatives enjoyed in June 2008, leaving taxpayers with the $22,000 bill for meals and hotels — $31,100 in 2024 dollars.

That’s according to the “Wastebook” reporting published by the late U.S. Senator Dr. Tom Coburn. For years, these reports shined a white-hot spotlight on federal frauds and taxpayer abuses.

Coburn, the late U.S. Senator from Oklahoma, earned the nickname "Dr. No" by stopping thousands of pork-barrel projects using the Senate rules. Projects that he couldn't stop, Coburn included in his oversight reports.  

Coburn's Wastebook 2008 included 65 examples of outrageous spending worth more than $1.3 billion, including the $22,000 in exotic travel spending.

Key facts: An Inside Edition report about the trip claimed the Congressmen were “treated like royalty” by staff who “met their every need.” Lawmakers indulged in fresh sushi and wine at the Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge, one of the most expensive resorts on the island.

The trip was approved so lawmakers could see how National Science Foundation funds were being used to study climate change and El Nino weather patterns. It was funded by the Congressional Science Committee.

Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) justified the excursion by claiming he needed to see how tax dollars were being spent at a tsunami warning center on the islands. The only problem: the Galapagos Islands did not actually have a tsunami center, Inside Edition found.

Baird admitted that the trip was “sort of a vacation, sort of work. Not a bad place to do both.”

Inside Edition’s hidden cameras also showed the Congressmen taking time for some cycling and shopping during work hours.

One member of the group, Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-OR), certainly didn’t need to conduct any research to inform policy making. She had already resigned from the Congressional Science Committee and was not running for reelection once her term ended a few months later.

Taxpayers spent $13 million for hundreds of overseas Congressional trips in 2008. That’s $18.4 million in 2024 dollars.

Supporting quote: Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK) said the media made the trip seem more luxurious than it was.

“It’s been fascinating. I’ve watched the clip and I was amazed. It’s like campaigning. You find things out about yourself you never knew before. I didn’t know how good the trip was until I saw the TV clip,” he said.

Summary: While Congressional trips are not inherently wasteful, it’s clear that this time Congressional funds could have been spent on initiatives that would have more directly benefited the public.



Maine Spends $3.5 Million on Free Housing for Illegal Immigrants

February 02, 2024


Topline: Maine is spending $3.5 million to build apartments for illegal immigrants, where 60 families will live rent-free for two years.

Key facts: Five entirely new buildings are being constructed to house the immigrant families in Brunswick, Maine, 30 minutes north of Portland, the state’s largest city.

The apartments will be ready by February.

The state is spending another $100,000 to help immigrants fill out the paperwork for their work permits and asylum applications.

The fund was also used last year to cover two years of rent payments for 52 apartments housing asylum seekers in South Portland.

Background: The construction funding came out of the state Emergency Housing Relief Fund, whose budget has increased to $55 million from just $22 million in April 2022.

The Maine State Housing Authority manages the fund. The department spent $5 million on payroll in 2022, with six employees taking home salaries between $100,000 and $150,000, according to

Maine has seen a surge of illegal immigration over the past year. Arrests at the Canadian border have nearly tripled, and the state’s refugee and asylum seeker population is expected to double.

Gov. Janet Mills plans to establish an Office of New Americans, a new state department focused on helping immigrants integrate into the workforce. There is no price tag attached to the plan yet, but similar offices in other states have cost tens of millions of dollars annually.

Critical quote: U.S. Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) is a staunch critic of Biden’s immigration policies and their impact on Maine.

“Most of us understand that nations need borders, those borders should be secured, and we should enforce the immigration laws on the books,” Golden recently said.

“Illegal immigration threatens our national security and undermines American jobs. It’s time for Congress and the Biden administration to come together and pass legislation to meaningfully address issues at the border. It should be a top priority in Washington, just like it is in most of America.”

Summary: As immigration to Maine increases, taxpayers have been funding more and more temporary solutions, such as the free housing being built in Brunswick.

The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at

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