April 24, 2024

Ernst: Shining a Light on Secret Spending

Bureaucrats were busted trying to bamboozle taxpayers by hiding the shocking price tag of a pork project pushed by former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Biden.

A scathing new audit calls the scheme to bury a San Francisco area subway’s true costs a “breach in transparency.” The six-mile extension was initially sold to the public for $4.7 billion. But after securing billions of taxpayer dollars from Washington, the amount nearly tripled to $12.8 billionmore than $2 billion per mile. While digging taxpayers into a hole, shoveling hasn’t even started on this money pit. It was scheduled to be completed by 2026, but now won’t be done until 2037. Maybe.

Rather than canceling this project that is billions over budget and more than a decade behind schedule, Biden and his Transportation Secretary are treating it “as one of their top transit projects in the country,” putting taxpayers on the hook for nearly half of its runaway costs.

Folks, I wrote a law to expose gravy trains like this so we can bring them to a squealing halt before they take taxpayers for a ride. But the Biden Administration is refusing to comply with that law, knowing it would hold the president accountable for all of his embarrassing billion-dollar boondoggles.The same is happening with other transparency laws I authored, requiring price tags on projects funded by the Pentagon and the Small Business Administration. Biden and his bureaucrats are choosing to keep taxpayers in the dark.

It’s disappointing to deliver such a dim report during Sunshine Week, the annual celebration of the public’s right to know what the government is doing.

I know sunlight is the best disinfectant because I’ve stopped billions of dollars of wasteful spending by shining a bright light on it. We defunded China’s notorious Wuhan Institute of Virology, ended subsidies to institutions in Russia, and forced Biden to recollect billions of dollars of delinquent small business loans.

We all know there is wasteful spending everywhere you look in Washington, but Biden wants to keep you in the dark because we can’t stop what we can’t see. That is why USAspending.gov, a searchable public website containing all government grants, contracts, and other expenditures, is taxpayers’ most valuable tool for spotting and then stopping Washington waste.

In fact, thanks to USAspending.gov, I have learned the shady organization that shipped more than one million taxpayer dollars to the Wuhan Institute for dangerous experiments on bat coronaviruses just received more dollars from the Department of Defense to do more research on “high-risk pathogens.” You better believe this is on my hit list to target for taxpayer savings!

But folks, there is a big problem. Once again, Biden is hiding billions by not disclosing the details about the dollars his deputies are doling out using loosely defined deals referred to as “other transaction agreements,” or OTAs.

The use of OTAs by the government is growing “significantly” and over $40 billion in OTAs have not been reported to USAspending.gov, according to the Government Accountability Office. This means less transparency and less accountability of secret sweetheart deals.

The Treasury Department, which is responsible for running the website, “does not believe agencies should report OTA spending to USAspending.gov,” despite the law stating that all “federal financial assistance and expenditures” totaling $25,000 or more should be included.

It seems pretty clear to me! With Washington adding $1 trillion to the national debt every three months, we really need to review the receipts they’re hiding and request refunds. To do that, I am introducing the Stop Secret Spending Act, mandating that OTAs be disclosed on USAspending.gov and that the public be informed of any other secret Washington spending schemes.