Real Clear Policy: #WasteOfTheDay Week 56 39_wotw_56

March 11, 2022 12:50 PM




National Institutes of Health Spent $14M to Get Monkeys High

March 7, 2022


The National Institutes of Health gave $14 million to Oregon Health and Science University to feed monkeys marijuana edibles and observe the effects last year.

A White Coat Waste Project investigation found that the experiment included two parts. First, eight female macaques were given a THC — the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — edible daily for up to four months and were observed for any changes to their menstrual cycle. Then, six male macaques were given the THC edible daily for up to 7 months and were observed for any changes to their fertility.

The White Coat Waste Project was only able to find the enormous price tag of this project by filing a complaint with the NIH. Federal law known as the Stevens Amendment requires labs to say what percent of the costs of the experiment come from taxpayer money, the dollar amount of taxpayer funds used, and the percent and amount of funding by non-governmental sources. The Oregon Health and Science University disclosed none of these figures in its reports announcing the research results.

Not only did this experiment violate federal law by not reporting the spending, but it was also inefficient. If scientists wanted to study the effects of marijuana on human fertility and menstrual cycles, they could have conducted experiments with humans. Recreational marijuana is legal in Oregon, so there would have been no shortage of volunteers to track the effects.

Taxpayers deserve transparency in how their money is used and hiding the price tag of expensive research projects is unacceptable. 


Michigan County Poised to Spend $80M in Covid Funds on Sports Complex

March 8, 2022


Since the federal government designed Covid-19 relief funds to get out the door fast, the tradeoff was lax verification and oversight. This led to misallocation and misuse of the funds.

While that may have seemed like a fair trade off at the time, it has funded hundreds of wasteful pet projects. One example is Lenawee County in Michigan, which is using Covid funds to build a sports complex that could cost up to $80 million.

The Center Square reported this project is designed to help attract travel sports teams from out of town, which would bring in revenue for the city. But even their own consultants admit they face a litany of challenges.

The sports complex presumably don’t have any tenants yet, since nobody requested this project, and the business will operate at a loss if it doesn’t find enough, according to the report. There are also many sports complexes like this in the region, so it will face stiff competition.

After announcing the project, some residents were rightly concerned. Could this $80 million have been better spent elsewhere? Kevon Martis, a zoning administrator and county resident, noted that this project is twice the annual budget for the county.

Elected officials should make their case why they thought this was a good investment.


Nonprofit Commission on Presidential Debates Made $8.7M in 2019

March 9, 2022


According to its tax form 990, the commission made a cool $8.7 million in 2019.

Where did this revenue come from? On its tax form, it claims $7.5 million came from “program services,” which the IRS defines as, “Revenues received by an organization while charging for the services for which it received tax-exemption.”

In this context, one would assume that means debates, except there were no presidential debates in 2019. The commission also “prepares educational materials and conducts research to improve the quality of debates,” but it’s difficult to imagine how it received $7.5 million from preparing educational materials.

It also advises other countries how to hold debates, but that service is presumably free as a nonprofit (or if it’s not, it should be labeled a consulting firm and pay taxes like other firms).

Luckily, it appears the commission has found plenty of ways to spend the cash. The executive director made a generous $561,312 in compensation during 2019. The commission’s travel and occupancy expenses totaled over $220,000 in 2019. It also paid a consultant, Martin Slutsky, $104,749. The total assets nearly doubled from $7.3 million at the beginning of the year to $14.5 million at the end of the year.

The commission should be more transparent about where the money is coming from when it’s not hosting debates and justify why these activities are deserving of the tax break that comes with nonprofit status. 


In 1977, FDIC Chair Charged Thousands in Personal Expenses

March 10, 2022


Throwback Thursday! 

Robert E. Barnett, then-chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, used federal money to pay for personal expenses. These expenses included private tennis club membership fees, buying locks for the doors of his house, and personal travel expenses for his wife. 

For the countless thousands of dollars in “outrageous expenditures,” Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, gave the FDIC a Golden Fleece award for wasteful and nonsensical spending. 

Barnett was chairman from March 18, 1976 to June 1, 1977, during which he used the FDIC as his own personal piggy bank, Proxmire said. 

The Government Accountability Office — then called the General Accounting Office — revealed the expenditures in a report. 

Among the other spending was paying the travel expenses of his wife, who went with him on seven trips to places including Puerto Rico (twice), Manila, and Mexico City. Barnett billed the FDIC for over $6,100 — $28,300 in 2022 dollars — to pay his and his wife's travel expenses. 

While it’s unclear how much this cost, Barnett used agency vehicles for personal reasons, including to transport Mrs. Barnett to the doctor, to transport Mrs. Barnett and her children on a visit to the Hirshhorn Museum, and to chauffeur the Barnett children to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware by two FDIC employees using an agency car, Proxmire said, detailing the GAO report. 

The FDIC also spent $1,388 in June and July of 1976 — $6,858 in 2022 dollars — to install locks and other security devices in Barnett's home.  

It’s also unclear how much the FDIC paid for Barnett's membership fees in a private tennis club in Virginia.  

"The GAO report indicates that the FDIC allowed its former head to use agency funds for his personal benefit,” Proxmire said. “These improprieties are not only deserving of a Fleece but underscore the need to put the expenditures of the FDIC and the other bank regulatory agencies in the federal budget.” 



U.S. Health and Human Services Spent $10.3 Million on Faulty Covid Tests

March 11, 2022


As the U.S. was scrambling to get its hands on enough Covid-19 rapid antigen tests, it gave a $10.3 million grant to a South Korean biotech company to help develop a new test. Now, the state of Utah has stopped using the test because of how inaccurate it is.

According to an investigation by Judicial Watch, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gave the funding to South Korean biotech company GenBody.

Utah started using it in its state-run testing sites in December 2021. Then, in February 2022, Utah paused its use after finding out that its false negative rate was about 60 percent. While rapid tests are typically less accurate than PCR — polymerase chain reaction — tests, the high inaccuracy rate made the tests useless.

Whenever money is given for research and development, there’s a chance the new product won’t work. But why did a test with a 40 percent accuracy rate receive FDA approval?

It’s also worth questioning why this money went to a South Korean firm. The U.S. has some of the most brilliant scientists and most advanced biotech companies in the world. Why did that money have to leave the U.S.?

With all the misinformation, mixed signals, and confusion around the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the American people deserve clear and transparent information from their government.

The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at

Back to news
Sign the Petition