GOP Jumps On Administration’s Self-Inflicted Stimulus Goofs

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Every time the Republicans said the $787 economic stimulus plan didn’t create jobs, the Obama administration was ready with a counterargument proving them wrong. That’s one reason the self-inflicted problems of inaccurate reports at Recovery.gov sting.

The administration says it’s a non-story, since the errors were about data entry, and the data entry only happened because they have tried to make the spending as transparent and real-time as possible.

Officials pointed us to today’s AP Fact Check on so-called phantom districts, and said they are correcting “rough” data that is less than one percent of the total that’s been posted at Recovery.gov.

But this afternoon came the latest, when ABC News obtained a report from the Government Accountability Office showing “more than 50,000 jobs or one out of every 10 jobs the White House says were ‘saved or created’ by their economic stimulus plan came from projects that reported spending no money.”

ABC reported that GAO says there are a “range of significant reporting and processing problems that need to be addressed.”

It may not be fair, but the Republicans are having a field day.Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) pointed out the data showed his state’s 4th Congressional district, which doesn’t exist, received $1.1 million in stimulus cash.

From the snarky Bishop press release:

“This is great news!” Congressman Bishop announced after visiting the site. “Who needs to count Mormon missionaries in the census when according to the Executive Branch, Utah already has a 4th seat in Congress! Even better, that 4th seat was able to secure $1.1 million dollars from the Economic Recovery Act. Unfortunately, that million dollars wasn’t able to create any jobs in the 4th district.”

A district labeled “00” received $539,834, creating 26 jobs. Bishop added: “If one counts the 00 district, we’ve actually got 5 seats in Congress.”

Democrats have been kinder, with the exception of Rep. David Obey’s scathing statement earlier this week.

Vice President Joe Biden spoke about the goofs for the first time since the ABC report was released. Appearing on Comedy Central’s “Daily Show” last night, Biden said the administration is going back and checking.

“Can you keep track?” Stewart asked.

“You can’t keep track,” Biden replied.

“Every single solitary penny that got sent out there to a state, to a construction company, to a nonprofit had to be accounted for, and it all got put on Recovery.gov,” he said, adding that of the people filing 130,000 reports, “70 didn’t know how to count.”

“What happened was there were bad civics classes for those 70 people,” Biden said.

He misspoke – it is actually 700 factual errors.

Biden tried to turn the problem into a laugh line: “Thank god its not true, they said there are 14 Congressional districts in Arizona – imagine all those Republicans!”

The audience laughed.

It didn’t get easier today, when Recovery.gov spokesman Ed Pound was quoted in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. From their story:

“We know what the problem is and we are trying to fix it,” said Pound. Asked why recipients would pluck random numbers – 26, 45, 14 – to fill in for their congressional district, Pound replied, “who knows, man, who really knows. There are 130,000 reports out there.”

Some of the examples ABC News found:

Moore’s Shoes in Campbellsville, Ky., claims nine jobs were created from an $890 grant for nine pairs of work boots for the Army Corps of Engineers.

Head Start of Augusta, Ga., claimed 317 jobs with a $790,000 grant, but it was really just a one-time raise to its 317 employees.

This government watchdog group has listed a breakdown of what they call “phantom districts.”

Late update: The White House puts out another response.

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