Back in 2009, Obama convinced the Democratic led United States House of Representatives and Senate to pass what the country was told was around $800 billion worth of economic stimulus. Others argue that the real price tag to the country ended up between $1 trillion and $1.7 trillion . Ever since its passage, reports have continued to detail the horrific waste of resources.
Among the first signs of trouble came when Franklin Center reporter Bill McMorris uncovered billions sent to non existent congressional districts. This included assertions by the federal government that $2.5 million in stimulus funds created a total of 14 jobs in the 54th, 9th, 4th, 12th, 13th, and 00th congressional districts in the Mountain State. Elected representatives from each of those districts were all unavailable for comment then or now.
Then came questions from Congress about stimulus funds intended for expanding broadband access in West Virginia. Marmet's tiny public library with a single obsolete computer received a $20,000 router designed for much larger and powerful networks. Similar purchases of expensive equipment went directly into storage because the state had no use for them.
An Obama administration official defended these purchases on the grounds that the state anticipated future needs. It would be interesting to know how much the West Virginia state government anticipates that the Marmet branch of the Kanawha County Public Library will expand.
Now come revelations from the West Virginia Legislature that even more stimulus money was misspent. Furthermore, both the Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred and at least one delegate, Gary Howell of Mineral County, publicly stated that the misuse of money was illegal.
According to the Charleston Daily Mail, money from a $126 million federal grant, which also overpaid for the routers, went towards the construction of a series of microwave towers. The allocation of funds bypassed the bidding process as required by West Virginia law. Non licensed and out-of-state subcontractors did much of the work on the towers while funds were distributed through county governments to avoid state purchasing oversight.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has promised to examine the Legislature's report. A decision to request an investigation from the US Attorney's office has not yet been made.
Post Script. This does not mean that all state agencies wasted funds. But the ones who spent responsibly and followed the law are now being combed over by federal auditors. This process uses up countless manhours to answer questions about money that was spent that originally had very few guidelines. Questions must be answered. It is a shame, though, that the foolishness of a few has thrown many state agencies into major behind the scenes anxiety when they acted responsibly all along.