10 Oct 2006 Did Frank Wolf Earmark Funds to Aid His Own Legislative Initiative?
Washington, D.C. – The National Center for Public Policy Research is calling on U.S. Representative Frank Wolf (R-VA) to fully disclose his role in securing a $1 million earmark to the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Foundation included in last year’s massive transportation bill.
Earmarks are congressional instructions to federal agencies to spend a portion of their budget on specifically-named projects. These earmarks typically are anonymous. In 2005, the transportation bill included 6,373 earmarks totaling $24.2 billion. Among these was the infamous “bridge to nowhere,” which famously allocated $233 million to connect an Alaskan town of under 9,000 people to an island of only 50 inhabitants.
“Frank Wolf is the chief House sponsor of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act,” said David Ridenour, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy Research. “If he was instrumental in securing federal funds for the principal organization pushing for his initiative, he has a conflict of interest and is, a minimum, ethically-challenged.”
Representative Wolf is a likely sponsor of the earmark. The National Heritage Area that would be established by his bill encompasses his district and he is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, where earmarks typically are attached.
Representative Wolf’s bill would also allow for up to $1 million in federal funds for the Heritage Area each fiscal year.
“This means one pork-barrel earmark is being used to press for another pork-barrel earmark,” said Peyton Knight, director of environmental and regulatory affairs at the National Center.
In an April 10, 2006 press release, Representative Wolf’s office noted: “Support for the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership Initiative has grown exponentially in the first quarter. Numerous resolutions of support have been passed by town councils and boards of supervisors…”
Little wonder support grew exponentially. According to The National Center’s investigation, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Foundation (JTHG Foundation), which has been lobbying town councils and boards of supervisors to secure these resolutions, barely existed in 2005. According to the JTHG Foundation’s press materials, the Foundation hadn’t yet finalized its “letters of incorporation/501c3 non-profit organization status” as of November 16, 2005. And, for at least part of the year, the Foundation’s mailing address was the personal post office box of the group’s executive director, Cate Magennis Wyatt.
Congress approved the transportation bill in July 2005 – months earlier.
“Frank Wolf and the JTHG Foundation would have us believe that local community activists are clamoring for this Heritage Area designation. They would have us believe this is home-grown,” said Ridenour. “It’s only home-grown if you believe Capitol Hill is populated by local community activists.”
Representative Wolf recently opposed a measure that would have required Members of Congress to list their names next to earmarks. He also reportedly has rejected requests to publicly disclose the earmarks he arranged over his years of service.
The National Center for Public Policy Research is a non-partisan, non-profit educational foundation established in 1982 and based in Washington, D.C. It has never requested nor received a federal or state grant or earmark.