Monday, October 13, 2014

Sens. Paul, Grassley challenge climate group’s spending on lobbying, alcohol and parties

The Washington Post reports that a climate research group got caught partying and boozing on taxpayer funds in a draft audit, but what’s worse, the National Science Foundation and Defense Department officials are under investigation because they signed off on it. A whistleblower leaked the sordid story, and now two US Senators are investigating. They warn that this may be a widespread practice because NSF documents show the foundation knew what the expenses were but still paid them.

Two senators are investigating whether the National Science Foundation and Defense Department auditors skirted federal laws by signing off on a nonprofit organization’s use of taxpayer money for “unallowable expenses,” including alcohol, lobbying and extravagant parties.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said the practice came to his attention earlier this year when a whistleblower provided him with a draft audit that showed a climate change group used federal funds to pay $112,000 for lobbying, $25,000 for an office Christmas party, and $11,000 for “premium coffee services” and an unspecific amount on French hotels.

The partiers were the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) — who received $90 million this year from the NSF.

On its Web site, NEON says it will collect data on the impacts of climate change, land use change and invasive species on natural resources from 106 sites across the nation over a 30-year period. The sites where scientists will collect their data are still largely under construction, and NEON says it will not be in full operation until 2017.

From 2009 to 2013, NEON classified all the expenses that Grassley and Paul are questioning as a “management fee.”

But it’s the cover up that is even uglier:

Internal documents show that the NSF was told by NEON that it was having a difficult time covering the costs because it had little in the way of private funds.

 Not once but twice:

According to Grassley’s staff, the auditor said two levels of supervisors signed off on his work. However, he told the senator’s staff that he said he believes the audit had stalled because DCAA management was concerned about spark a controversy for the high-profile program, the foundation, and the defense department.

Grassley’s staff said the auditor came forward because he believed the audit was going to be “whitewashed.”


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).

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