Today, one year after sharing a similar report in 2008, I share a new oversight report issued this week on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). Inside, it contains candidates for what an annual award I’ve decided to call “The Heistman Trophy.” Among those, descriptions of the 10 finalists appear below:
1. Broadband Map That May be Obsolete by the Time it’s Complete ($350 million): $350 million was awarded to states from the Department of Commerce to build a map of its broadband Internet infrastructure, though it duplicates existing maps. Rather than spend $350 million on the project, one firm said it could map the whole nation for $3.5 million – one percent of the cost. Or, anyone with a computer could Google it – for free.
2. Empty Mall Gets Energy Award ($5 million): $5 million was awarded to the Oak Ridge Mall in Tennessee to provide geothermal heat – only the mall has few stores and customers.
3. Fossil Research in Argentina ($1.57 million): Researchers from Penn State will travel to Argentina to dig up plant fossils.
4. Anti-Capitalist Puppet Shows ($50,000): Puppet theaters with socialist, anti-capitalist messages were paid $50,000 to put on puppet shows.
5. Free Rides on Baltimore Water Taxi ($1.6 million): A program to offer free rides on the water taxi as a means of relieving road congestion got money despite it doing little to stop people from traveling in cars.
6. Digital Television Ad Campaign ($6 million): An ad agency was hired for $6 million one month before the switch to digital television—and reported creating three jobs with the money.
7. California Computer System ($60 million): In 2002, California got $66 million to upgrade its computers for the unemployment insurance program. It spent the money on other things and just got another $60 million in stimulus for the same project.
8. Non-Competitive Contracts ($7.8 billion): Half of all stimulus contracts awarded as of the fall were not subject to full competition.
9. Mice, Alcohol and Drugs ($38,000): Studying the impact of alcohol and methamphetamines on mice and rats.
10. Tourist Railroad ($2 million): The Virginia & Truckee tourist railroad in Nevada will get more than $2 million for an extension.
Cast your vote in an unscientific way via the comments section below.