Despite Questions, Hoyer Wins Funds for Group Run by Donor
Saturday, December 22, 2007
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer has won more than $400,000 he sought for a music education foundation run by one of his campaign contributors, in what a budget watchdog group called an "egregious" example of pork-barrel spending.
The $438,000 grant for the InTune Foundation Group of Beverly Hills, Calif., was in the giant spending bill passed by Congress this week, according to the Maryland Democrat's office.
U.S. Department of Education officials recently said they couldn't figure out how InTune spent a previous half-million-dollar grant in 2005 because it hadn't turned in its final report, due in September 2006. A department spokeswoman, Samara Yudof, said yesterday that it still hadn't received that information.
Hoyer told reporters this week that he decided to maintain the funding despite such problems but that he would stipulate to the department that if the InTune personnel "don't meet the criteria, they ought not to get the money."
Budget watchdog groups said that was not enough.
"If he was really concerned and worried about his fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayer, he should have pulled that earmark," said Leslie K. Paige of the nonpartisan Citizens Against Government Waste.
Earmarks are grants tucked into bills for designated companies or projects, often in the sponsoring lawmaker's district. Although they make up only a small part of the federal budget, they are controversial, with critics complaining that they typically do not get much scrutiny and that they sometimes appear to reward campaign supporters.
Hoyer, regarded as one of the top earmarkers in the House, defends his projects as "good pork." He says his earmarks have gone to such causes as cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, improving local roads and equipping police.
He said he secured the money for InTune because he is a longtime proponent of music education and not in exchange for financial support. Hoyer's political action committee received at least $31,000 from InTune's director, other people involved with the foundation and their families from 2004 to 2006, Federal Election Commission records show.
InTune's director, Eugene C. Maillard, did not respond to messages left yesterday on his office phone and cellphone.
In an earlier interview, he said that InTune would spend most of the 2008 earmark to create youth programs at the National Music Center in Washington.
"It might be music camps. It might be lessons. It might be how to be a DJ. It might be how to create a television show," he said.