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News Link • Secret Government Projects

Secret process benefits pet government projects

• By Eileen Sullivan and Matt Apuzzo AP
A sleepy Montana checkpoint along the Canadian border that sees about three travelers a day will get $15 million under President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan. A government priority list ranked the project as marginal, but two powerful Democratic senators persuaded the administration to make it happen.

Despite Obama’s promises that the stimulus plan would be transparent and free of politics, the government is handing out $720 million for border upgrades under a process that is both secretive and susceptible to political influence. This allowed low-priority projects such as the checkpoint in Whitetail, Mont., to skip ahead of more pressing concerns, according to documents revealed to The Associated Press.

A House oversight committee has added the checkpoint projects to its investigation into how the stimulus money is being spent. The top Republican on that committee, California’s Rep. Darrell Issa, sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Wednesday, questioning why some projects leapfrogged others.

It wasn’t supposed to be that way. In 2004, Congress ordered Homeland Security to create a list, updated annually, of the most important repairs at checkpoints nationwide. But the Obama administration continued a Bush administration practice of considering other, more subjective factors when deciding which projects get money.

The results:
border patrol check point arizona 50 miles from border napolitano
— A border station in Napolitano’s home state of Arizona is getting $199 million, five times more than any other border station. The busy Nogales checkpoint has required repairs for years but was not rated among the neediest projects on the master list reviewed by the AP. Napolitano credited her lobbying as Arizona governor for getting the project near the front of the line for funding under the Bush administration. All it needed was money, which the stimulus provided.  

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