Hawaii U.S. Congressman Cast Only Five Votes in Person in 2022
May 2, 2022
When U.S. Representative from Hawaii Kai Kahele began campaigning for Congress in 2019, he promised his constituents that he would show up and do his job. Now, more than four months into 2022, he has only been present in Washington, D.C. for five out of 125 votes, casting the rest by proxy from Hawaii, according to Honolulu Civil Beat.
Speculation has arisen that perhaps his absences are because he kept his job as a commercial airline pilot, the news outlet reported.
According to his House financial disclosure, Kahele made $120,000 from Hawaiian Airlines in 2020, his first year as a U.S. representative. His salary as a representative is $174,000, resulting in a total annual salary of $294,000.
In addition to his absences, his choice to remain an active pilot raises serious conflict of interest concerns. Jake Sherman, a reporter for Punchbowl News, reported that Kahele is a member of the House Aviation subcommittee, and voted on bills that his employer, Hawaiian Airlines, lobbied for.
Kahele’s office claims the House Ethics Committee has approved of this arrangement, but has not produced any evidence. News organizations have recently reported the congressman is retiring to run for governor.
Regardless, public servants should show up for work. They also should recuse themselves on votes in which their employer has an interest. The House needs to require their members to come to Washington, D.C., and Kahele needs to focus on the job his constituents elected him to do.
CA Consultant Charged Schools $5,000/hour to Remake Math Curricula
May 3, 2022
Jo Boaler, a former Stanford math professor, who left her teaching role in 2006 over criticism of her academic work, returned to her teaching role in 2010, and began consulting for public school districts in California, charging $5,000 an hour, according to The Stanford Review.
According to the article, Boaler was one of the authors of the California Math Framework, which encourages school districts to lower educational standards.
For example, she criticized the current curriculum’s “rush to calculus” and algebra, and called gifted children a myth. Her curriculum advocates for more lessons that are themed around contemporary political topics like labor unions, with one lesson having students advocate for a living wage, the Stanford Review reported.
The California Math Framework has received criticism from academics, politicians, and parents.
One critic is Jelani Nelson, a professor at UC Berkeley. He criticized the low standards of the framework, as well as Boaler for charging Oxnard School District $5,000 per hour for her consulting services.
When her exorbitant consulting fees were made public, Boaler alleged harassment and says she contacted the police, even though the fees were public information from the Oxnard School District, according to a tweet by Nelson.
No public school district should be wasting $5,000 an hour on a singular consultant, especially one known for advocating for lowering educational expectations.
With underpaid teachers, a lack of technology in classrooms, and outdated textbooks, schools can surely spend their funds to increase educational standards, not lower them.
NY Lt. Governor Resigns After Bribery, Fraud Charges
May 4, 2022
New York Lieutenant Gov. Brian Benjamin, who was recently arrested by federal authorities and indicted on charges of alleged bribery, honest services wire fraud, and falsification of records, resigned from his office shortly after his arrest.
Prosecutors allege Benjamin used his influence as a state senator to secure a $50,000 state grant for a real estate developer in exchange for tens of thousands dollars of campaign contributions from 2019 to 2021, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The Harlem real estate developer and Benjamin’s alleged partner in crime, Gerald Migdol, was indicted for his role in the scheme last November. Then, Benjamin allegedly tried to cover up the scheme by lying on vetting documents he filled out before becoming lieutenant governor, The Journal reported.
Benjamin collected a $110,000 salary as a state senator and $210,000 as lieutenant governor.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams called the scheme a simple story of corruption, saying, “Taxpayer money for campaign contributions. Quid pro quo. This for that. That’s bribery, plain and simple.”
This is not the first time powerful politicians colluded with state contractors in pay-to-play schemes in New York. Most of those schemes in New York, however, are legal.
In 2020, OpenTheBooks.com CEO Adam Andrzejewski helped The New York Post break a story detailing how then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave kickbacks to hospital systems that contributed to his campaign. Even with Cuomo out of office, it seems the culture of corruption remains.
The Benjamin indictment casts a shadow on the administration of Gov. Kathy Hochul, who promised to “forge a new era of transparency” in a state plagued with corruption. Now, her own political career is in jeopardy as she tries to convince New York voters to elect her to a full term in the June 28 Democratic primary and then in the November general election.
Throwback Thursday: In 1980, Education Officials Let $900K Be Spent on Disco, Rock Concert
May 5, 2022
Between 1980 and 1981, the National Institute of Education, then a part of the Department of Education, turned a blind eye to how a $900,000 contract — worth $3.1 million in 2022 dollars — was spent. Their lax oversight resulted in the money being blown on buying a disco and promoting a rock concert, among other things.
Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, awarded the National Institute of Education his Golden Fleece Award for their reckless disregard for taxpayers’ money.
The funds were supposed to pay consultants to organize national conferences for educators.
The consultants’ job was to set up meetings, reimburse travel costs, pay honoraria, and handle other administrative tasks, Proxmire said. They were supposed to submit their bills to the National Institute for Education for approval and reimbursement. Sadly, lax oversight and controls led to abuse of taxpayer dollars.
Auditors found that the consulting firm used government funds to give $100,000 in personal loans to three of its executives, which were never paid back.
Among other waste and abuse, the firm used government funds to support other businesses that the firm owned. These unrelated businesses used the government funding to cover administrative expenses while it promoted a rock concert, purchased a disco, speculated on real estate, opened mining operations in Greece, and sold airplanes in Bangladesh, according to Proxmire.
One would think that if the agency had seen where this money was going, it wouldn’t have paid the consulting firm. Unfortunately, those tasked with monitoring the receipts and making reimbursements didn’t investigate where the money was going. They only wrote checks.
U.S. Gave a $737 Million Loan to a Failing Solar Energy Plant
May 6, 2022
The Crescent Dunes Solar Energy plant was created in 2011, when the U.S. government lent the company $737 million to generate power for 43,000 homes in Nevada. However, years of delays, mismanagement, and bankruptcy have plagued the project, leaving taxpayers guaranteeing a loan that should never have been made.
According to an investigation by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the project’s 10,000 mirrors were expected to heat molten salt in a 640-foot high tower. The salt would heat water, creating steam and the steam would create power. Everyone from the late Sen. Harry Reid to the U.S. Department of Energy touted its ambition, scale, and potential.
Unfortunately, it got off to a rough start. It began producing power in 2015, months behind schedule, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Then in 2016, a leak took the plant offline. By late 2017, it was operational again, but experienced “frequent and prolonged outages,” the newspaper quoted NV Energy as saying.
In 2019, partial owner SolarReserve, said it “suffered a catastrophic failure” that required the removal of the solar tower, effectively decommissioning the project.
The plant’s owners entered into a bankruptcy agreement with the U.S. government in 2020, recovering $200 million of taxpayer funds.
Now, the project is back from the dead, with its owners entering into a contract to sell electricity to NV Energy during the summer months.
The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com.