Biden’s 2020-2021 White House Payroll at $100.7 Million Is Highest Ever
August 8, 2022
The payroll for White House staff under President Joseph Biden in his first two years had the highest headcount in history and spent $100.7 million. The payroll spending was reported in Biden’s annual report to Congress published on July 1.
OpenTheBooks.com analyzed the payroll information the day it was released and put out a comprehensive look at the spending through its oversight report.
During President Joe Biden’s first two-years, he spent $100.7 million on the largest White House payroll in American history, based on headcount. No White House ever employed 500 staffers. The Biden White House employed 560 (FY2021) and 474 this year (2022). In 2022, the headcount dropped by 86 employees.
Biden employs 100 more staffers than Trump (374) (FY2018) and five more than Obama (469) (FY2010) at the same point in their respective presidencies.
There was 39.3-percent turnover in White House staff, year over year. 220 employees from last year are no longer on payroll. This mirrored the turnover percentage of the worst year of the Trump administration (2018). The costs over the first two-years of the Biden administration exceeded Trump ($85.1 million) by $15.6 million; but the costs were $5.7 million less than Obama ($106.4 million), adjusted for inflation. (However, Biden didn’t disclose the pay of 16 staffers.)
The projected four-year costs of the Biden payroll exceed $200 million, compared to the 2017-2020 Trump administration’s $152 million (inflation adjusted to $163 million), the 2013-2016 Obama administration’s $155.6 million ($178.2 million), and the 2009- 2012 Obama administration’s $153 million (inflation adjusted to $187 million).
While the budget is just a tiny drop in the $4 trillion federal spending, it helps to understand an administration’s priorities and forecast how it will spend money.
Illinois Officials Hid That Chemicals Were in Drinking Water
August 9, 2022
Even though there were many warning signs that the drinking water in Illinois is tainted with “forever chemicals” that can stay in a person’s body for years and cause cancer and other diseases, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency didn’t begin testing the state’s water utilities for the chemicals until August 2020.
This is according to a new investigation by the Chicago Tribune, which reported that even after finding out the results, state and local officials downplayed them, “burying notices filled with technical jargon on government websites.”
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — known as PFAS — are long lasting chemicals found in many different consumer, commercial, and industrial products that break down very slowly over time.
Last year, Congress allocated $10 billion for loans and grants to finance PFAS-related projects, and the EPA recently received $50 billion for drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure projects.
In Illinois, more than 8 million people in the state — 6 out of every 10 Illinoisans — get their drinking water from a utility where at least one “forever chemical” has been detected, according to the Chicago Tribune investigation.
As state officials downplayed the significance of the chemicals in drinking water, municipalities took it upon themselves to fix it.
Several municipal wells in Will County are contaminated with PFAS and five communities there — Channahon, Crest Hill, Joliet, Romeoville and Shorewood — are forming a new water authority and building a 31-mile pipeline to transport treated Lake Michigan water sold by Chicago, the newspaper reported.
The project is slated for completion in 2030, costing water ratepayers at least $1.4 billion, to ensure residents and businesses they have enough safe water to drink.
State officials didn’t do their jobs and now residents must pay for it, to the tune of $1.4 billion. And that’s only one project, other municipalities may follow.
CT Port Authority Project Costs $255M, Corrupted by Unethical Gifts
August 10, 2022
The Connecticut Port Authority’s remaking of New London's State Pier is costing $255.5 million and is the subject of a wide-ranging federal probe of several construction projects that were overseen by Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration.
Connecticut newspaper The Day reported that Attorney General William Tong is investigating a controversial grant in 2020 — a $523,000 success fee given to a marine consulting firm, Seabury PFRA, “for its role in choosing the politically connected operators of the port of New Haven to run the competing New London port,” the newspaper said.
An employee of the consulting firm had served on the port authority board of directors until right before his firm got the large contract.
The Seabury firm agreed to pay $10,000 in fines for violating ethics codes by giving gifts to two port authority employees and a board member, the Office of State Ethics said.
The gifts came during 2017 and 2019, a time when agency spending was out of control, not properly recorded, with lavish expense accounts and payments made to insiders without competitive bidding, The Day reported.
Former board chairpersons, Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder and Scott Bates, deputy secretary of the state, both resigned at the request of the governor.
While the Ethics Office fined Seabury for the unethical payments, it won’t say who got the bribes and neither will the Port Authority.
This unholy alliance between the Connecticut Port Authority and Seabury PFRA seems to be crumbling but so far $255.5 million has been spent on this project and the people who took the bribes may still be in positions of power.
Throwback Thursday: Millions Spent on Unused Midwest Highway, Bridges
August 11, 2022
In 1986, the Federal Highway Administration spent $21.4 million — almost $58 million in 2022 dollars — on unused roads and bridges in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska.
For this wasteful spending, Sen. William Proxmire, a Democrat from Wisconsin, gave a Golden Fleece Award to the FHA.
In that FHA region, auditors found that 15 percent of the highway and bridge projects that they looked at were either unneeded and unused or were underused far below expectations.
“Some of the unneeded projects had been sitting, lonely and forlorn, for over two decades,” Proxmire said.
One four-lane bridge had “one little problem” Proxmire said, and the FHA spent $900,000 to replace it. But two years after the bridge was done, no road led to or from it.
“The taxpayers had a dirty trick pulled on them in this bridge game,” the senator said.
In another project, the FHA paid for 6.5 miles of new roadway because traffic was expected to almost double within 20 years. In 1974, on average, 3,420 vehicles used the old road each day. A dozen years later, traffic has dwindled to 1,600 per day on the new road.
Another instance saw the FHA approving construction of an extra-long overpass bridge, as the road underneath was expected to be widened to four lanes.
After more than 25 years, in 1986, the road underneath was still only two lanes.
“These bridges are overly long and the taxpayers are at least $26,000 short,” Proxmire said.
Donor to NY Gov. Hochul Gets $637M for Covid Tests
August 12, 2022
A company has been paid $637 million in New York taxpayer funds to provide the state Department of Health with at-home Covid-19 tests after the company’s owner donated $300,000 to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s campaign.
The Albany Times Union pointed out the quid pro quo, noting that since December, the New Jersey-based company, Digital Gadgets LLC, a wholesaler of hoverboards and other electronic devices that pivoted to supplying medical equipment during the pandemic, received the state funds without going through a competitive bidding process.
The Health Department, a state agency controlled by Hochul, didn’t sign a contract with the company, but rather used purchase orders, the newspaper reported.
A month before, Hochul had signed an executive order declaring a new Covid-19 state of emergency and suspended some components of state finance law, including competitive bidding for certain contracts and the normal contract review and approval process conducted by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office, which oversees state government spending, the Times Union reported.
Soon after, Charlie Tebele’s company, Digital Gadgets LLC, provided the state with 52 million at-home tests, and his company got $637 million from 239 payments from the Department of Health between Dec. 30, 2021, and March 25, 2022.
The company charged the state $13 per test for one batch and $11.50 for another.
This isn’t the first instance of a questionable tit-for-tat state agreements with Tebele’s company.
The Times Union described Tebele and his wife, Nancy, as longtime political donors in New York, who received $119 million in emergency no-bid contracts from then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to provide Covid-19 supplies, such as ventilators and masks, in spring 2020.
Those contracts came shortly after Tebele family members made $44,000 in donations to de Blasio’s campaigns and related political action committees.
If a politician is writing loopholes into laws meant to prevent corruption and waste of taxpayer dollars, there’s a good chance something is awry.
The #WasteOfTheDay is presented by the forensic auditors at OpenTheBooks.com.