$6.4 billion in Porkulus money spent in phantom districts?

Earlier this morning, Sammy Benoit asked me how it felt to live in a much larger Minnesota, with new Congressional districts popping up all over.  Any thrill of getting extra representation in Congress got muted by the fact that the Obama administration apparently added more phantom Congressional districts (440) than actually exist now (435), and that they somehow showed $6.4 billion in Porkulus money going to these nonexistent districts.  Watchdog.org has tracked down the massive failure to check data at Recovery.gov, the reporting arm of Porkulus for the White House:

Just how big is the stimulus package? Well for one, it has doubled the size of the House of Representatives, according to recovery.gov, which says that funds were distributed to 440 congressional districts that do not exist.

According to data retrieved from recovery.gov, nearly $6.4 billion was used to “create or save” just under 30,000 jobs in these phantom congressional districts–almost $225,000 per job. The web site operates on an $84 million budget and is tasked with monitoring the distribution of the $787 billion stimulus package passed by Congress–which, for the record, counts 435 members–in early 2009.

The site’s monitors, however, are not too savvy about America’s political or geographic landscape. More than $2 million was given to the 99th District of North Dakota, a state which has only one congressional district. In order to qualify for 99 districts, North Dakota would have to have a population of about 60 million people, almost 24 million more people than California.

The stimulus revived 8 recently retired congressional districts. Pennsylvania’s 21st District has received just under $2 million in funds. Mississippi’s 5th District and Oklahoma’s 6th received $1 million from the legislation, respectively. All three were eliminated by the 2000 census.

Many other recipients carried the banner for congressional districts that have been defunct for decades. South Carolina’s 7th took the cake, garnering more than $27 million in stimulus funds, despite being eliminated in 1930. And Virginia’s 12th District may have been written off at the start of the Civil War, but it must carry some sentimental value in Old Dominion–it received more than $2 million, according to recovery.gov.

Some may feel that a $6.4 billion error is simply a rounding problem, but I recall a time when that used to be considered real money.  For instance, that would have been about a seventh of the federal deficit for September, but only about 3% of the federal deficit in October.  Who knew the Obama administration could point to that level of improvement!  Doesn’t that make you feel better about your government’s ability to handle money?

As a former database administrator myself, I am not unaware of the challenges of bad data.  However, that just means that database administrators have to set proper filters to restrict entries to prevent the infiltration of bad data.  One particular strategy for a database built on Congressional districts for reporting would be to load a list of legitimate districts by state as a filter.  That would have caught records for 35 Congressional districts in Washington DC, as an example … since Washington DC doesn’t have any Congressional districts at all.

This again demonstrates the rank incompetence of the Obama administration, and the folly of trusting government to spend our money more than we trust ourselves.  The ostensible reason for Porkulus was to boost the economy, which Obama proposed to do by taking capital out of the markets and spending it on a raft of Democratic pork projects and progressive wish lists.  We knew that the list of spending priorities would do nothing to boost the economy, but even we didn’t foresee just how incompetent the White House would be in tracking the money.  How hard is it to get a list of actual Congressional districts, for Pete’s sake?

Meanwhile, I’ll claim my house as Minnesota’s 27th Congressional district, and the $3.159 million the government apparently wants to throw at it.  Please deliver it in small, unmarked bills.  I promise it will stimulate the local economy, especially the Blu-Ray and computer-equipment industries.