Universities Spend $521K on Speeches by 1619 Project Author
February 20, 2023
Across the country, universities are hiring journalist and author of the 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones, to speak to students on issues of race and history. Her lucrative speaking fees cost students and taxpayers.
Just 12 universities have paid a combined $521,000 in speaking fees to Hannah-Jones.
The 1619 Project is a New York Times project that “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”
Its controversial narrative and the facts it puts forth have been questioned, including the incorrect claim “that the patriots fought the American Revolution in large part to preserve slavery in North America,” as disputed in Politico by a Northwestern University history professor and author of two books on slavery.
“Despite my advice, the Times published the incorrect statement about the American Revolution anyway, in Hannah-Jones’ introductory essay,” Leslie M. Harris wrote in Politico.
According to an investigation by the Daily Wire, Hannah-Jones was hired for 33 speaking engagements in 2022. Of those, 12 were at publicly-funded entities, and averaged $43,000 per engagement, often for speeches lasting about an hour.
Assuming all 33 engagements cost the average of $43,000, Hannah-Jones would have made $1.4 million in speaker fees in 2022 alone.
In her most lucrative engagement, Hannah-Jones was paid $101,700 for about 24 hours of work at Indiana University. This included her participation in four classroom discussions, her attendance at a dinner party, and a one-hour speaking engagement, followed by a book signing. Out-of-state students pay $39,000 in tuition and fees to attend Indiana University.
In another lucrative deal, Northern Illinois University paid Hannah-Jones $30,000 to speak on Zoom. In addition to public and private universities, other venues included public libraries and embassies.
Private universities and other private entities can spend their money as they see fit, but taxpayers that fund public universities and public libraries should not be on the hook for $43,000 speeches.
With a $49B Budget, Education Dept. Can’t Pass Audit
February 21, 2023
The Department of Education recently received an unusual audit opinion, thanks to poor data quality and uncertainty in the cost of subsidy programs, according to an Inspector General report.
After conducting their yearly audit, auditors at KPMG issued a “Disclaimer of Opinion.” This means auditors felt they did not have enough information to issue an opinion on whether the Department of Education was fairly representing their financial statements.
This opinion was largely a result of President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, which created a large amount of uncertainty in calculating how much the forgiveness would cost.
Auditors state, “[Department of Education] management was unable to provide adequate evidential matter to support certain key assumptions used to estimate the [student loan forgiveness] subsidy costs.”
Because of this, auditors were unable to determine if adjustments had to be made to the balance sheet. Specifically, there was uncertainty with the “take up rate,” or how many people would opt into the debt forgiveness program, making it impossible to calculate how much debt the department would actually be forgiving and taking as a loss.
Auditors also found a material weakness in the department’s internal controls that led to imprecise data collection, with KPMG commenting, “controls were not properly designed at an appropriate level of precision to address the relevance and reliability of the underlying data.”
The Department of Education has a budget of $48.8 billion, but taxpayers can’t be sure where that money is going or if its financial statements are accurate thanks to poor data and lack of basic accounting controls.
Pelosi Secures $400M for Golden Gate Bridge
February 22, 2023
The Golden Gate Bridge is getting a $400 million grant, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg announced, according to Fox News.
The funding for this project came from the 2021 bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, a $1.2 trillion bill meant to fund improvements for infrastructure. In addition to rebuilding bridges and roads, funding also went toward projects like expanding broadband access, increasing the number of electric vehicle charging stations, and environmental remediation.
According to Fox, the grant will primarily go toward a “seismic retrofit project to protect the bridge from a large-scale earthquake.” The bridge was most recently seismically retrofitted from 1997 to 2014, at a cost of over $385 million. The next phase, which this grant will help fund, is expected to take six years and cost $879 million.
While the project is an appropriate use of funds under this program, the massive price tag raises questions regarding the former speaker’s influence in securing these funds. It is unusual for grants this large to go toward local projects, and Pelosi’s outsized influence in Congress likely helped secure such a large amount of funding for a major project in her home district.
Fox notes that senators from California, Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, also played a role in obtaining the funding, with the pair jointly submitting the formal funding request.
Powerful politicians are consistently able to direct federal tax dollars to their lucky constituents.
Throwback Thursday: In 1985, U.S. Spent $760K in Interest on Unused Loans
February 23, 2023
In 1985, the Department of Education spent $760,000 — over $2 million in 2023 dollars — on interest and fees for student loans that were never used.
Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, awarded the Department of Education his Golden Fleece Award for this reckless disregard of taxpayers’ money.
As Proxmire explains, “from 1978 to 1982, a major U.S. bank processed the paperwork, obtained all the necessary approvals, and issued 1,600 checks to students. Months passed, semesters went by, school years ended, but for some reason the students never cashed their checks.”
Despite the bank never actually loaning out the money since the checks were never cashed, the Department of Education continued to pay fees and interest on these loans, never double checking that they were taken out. This allowed the bank to cash in, not only earning the interest from the government on the money that it never loaned out, but it was also able to loan that same money out to someone else with interest.
This went on for so long, with neither the bank nor the Department of Education realizing that the checks were never cashed, that the bank assumed the loans were in default, and submitted default claims to the Department of Education, which were paid.
Eventually, the Department of Education discovered its mistake and was able to get back the principle it paid, but was unbale to recoup the interest and fees.
All in all, the debacle took four years to sort out, and cost taxpayers $760,000. Proxmire aptly notes that, “The Department of Education gets a big, red ‘F’ for its stewardship of the taxpayers’ money.”
NJ Spent $521K of Covid Funds on SUVs For Top Officials
February 24, 2023
The Department of Defense, one of the largest federal agencies, has admitted to losing track of over $220 billion worth of equipment it gave out to military contractors, according to a Government Accountability Office report.
The DoD frequently contracts with third parties for a host of services such as intelligence gathering, weapons development, and transportation. Sometimes, the DoD will loan out government property to these contractors, including ammunition, missiles, and torpedoes, to help the contractors accomplish their mission goals. Unfortunately, the DoD has done a poor job of keeping track of these assets.
The report found that the $220 billion in equipment the agency has lost track of is likely "significantly understated." The report also cites lost equipment as one of the reasons the DoD can’t balance its books. The agency has never passed an audit, and the agency could only account for 39% of its $3.5 trillion in assets during its last audit in November 2022.
This is not a new problem, with auditors first noting the agency had a material weakness in tracking assets in 2001. Since then, leadership has tried multiple times to create a database to document its assets, but has failed every single time. It has begun the process of starting a database of assets for the eighth time, this time pledging to have a system in place by 2026.
It’s not only fiscally irresponsible for the Pentagon to lose track of $220 billion in assets, it’s a risk to national security when the Pentagon loans out weapons without ever following up on what happened to them.
The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com.