An Arizona conservative congressman is shining light on how President Barack Obama is using $3 million of taxpayer money to teach National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officials how to lobby Congress.
In the first of a series of efforts targeting wasteful government spending, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) wrote to House Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) last week to pressure him to include language banning the Obama administration from spending money on the program. The program, highlighted by outgoing Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) in his 2013 annual “Wastebook,” operates through Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute.
“NASA searches for intelligent life… in Congress,” Coburn wrote in a press release about the program’s inclusion in his Wastebook in 2013. “One of NASA’s next research missions won’t be exploring an alien planet or distant galaxy. Instead, the space agency is spending $3 million to go to Washington, D.C. and study one of the greatest mysteries in the universe–how Congress works.”
Specifically, the taxpayer money is spent on GAI at Georgetown–$3 million worth from 2012 through 2017–aimed at teaching NASA personnel how Congress works.
Gosar is pressuring Rogers to include specific legislative language in the upcoming appropriations bill that funds such spending–the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2015–that would ban the Obama administration from using taxpayer dollars on it. Rather than just publicly complain about wasteful spending, Gosar is putting the ball in the court of someone who can change it: Rogers.
“We were disturbed to learn from Senator Tom Coburn’s annual Wastebook that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is actually in the process of spending $3 million to fund a program with Georgetown’s GAI between 2012 and 2017 which is purported to teach NASA headquarters personnel about Congress, its inner workings, and the legislative process,” Gosar and three other House members, Reps. Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), wrote to Rogers.
“Georgetown’s GAI is not a traditional education program,” Gosar and his fellow members wrote. “It is headquartered on K Street here in Washington–a street known to be home to a significant number of lobbying and special interest groups.”
The GAI website, Gosar wrote, “boasts” that it has made such courses for more than 40 federal agencies and departments like the one it is currently charging NASA–and taxpayers–$3 million to create.
“Though we appreciate anyone’s interest in Congress and the processes involved with conducting legislative business, we do not find this a prudent use of taxpayer money,” Gosar and his colleagues wrote to Rogers. “There are endless resources available on the legislative process, committee memberships, budget outlays, and the like. NASA and all other agencies should feel free to utilize these resources rather than squandering millions of dollars of taxpayer money on what could be considered intra-governmental lobbying efforts.”
So Gosar and his colleagues proposed specific language be added into the upcoming appropriations bill that would ban the administration from using taxpayer funds for this program.
“Learning more about Congress is relatively easy–especially for people who are, generally speaking, some of the most intelligent people in the world,” they wrote. “Our offices have taken meetings with NASA personnel on more than one occasion, at which time they are free to ask any and all questions about Congress and the legislative process. It is not rocket science. No $3 million multi-year projects are necessary. All they need is the Internet and a telephone to understand more about what we do.”
A spokesperson for Rogers’ Appropriations Committee told Breitbart News in response to Gosar’s letter that the committee does not, as a policy, “comment or speculate on funding levels or provisions that may or may not be included in future bills.”
But there are, generally speaking, provisions in all appropriations legislation that forbid taxpayer money from being used for lobbying purposes–so depending on how this program is officially viewed, it could potentially be unlawful.
Gosar’s press secretary Garrett Hawkins told Breitbart News that this letter is part of a planned focus from the congressman this year on targeting wasteful spending in Washington. “One of Rep. Gosar’s top priorities is eliminating waste, fraud and abuse within the bloated federal government,” Hawkins said in an email. “This legislative effort is the first in a series of wasteful spending items Rep. Gosar is targeting.”