A prominent Democratic politician who was banned from receiving federal aid three years ago over fraud charges is once again raking in government funds from the very same program he abused. It pays to be a FOTO -- Friend of the Obamas.
Our publicly subsidized con artist is Sacramento mayor and former NBA star Kevin Johnson. He donated the maximum individual amount to Obama for America, campaigned across the country for Obama in 2008, and bragged to California media during his mayoral run about his friendship and access to both Barack and Michelle Obama. The Obama administration's Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) recently bestowed Johnson's city with an AmeriCorps grant worth more than $650,000.
The money will flow into Sacramento's "Get Fit Now! Initiative," which will hire 124 AmeriCorps members "to teach fitness and nutrition education to children and offer adult fitness classes for their parents. They will also set up school-based gardens where children will learn how to grow fresh vegetables."
That's a lot of fertilizer-shovelers employed in the name of "public service." If the award smells funny, it should. For Johnson, AmeriCorps has indeed been all about service -- self-service, that is.
In 2008, the independent Inspector General overseeing AmeriCorps, Gerald Walpin, concluded that Johnson and aide Dana Gonzalez had squandered hundreds of thousands of a nearly million-dollar grant earmarked for his nonprofit youth organization, St. HOPE. Based on Walpin's investigation, AmeriCorps' parent organization (the aforementioned CNCS) suspended Johnson and Gonzalez's access to federal funds. Here's a refresher on their fraud and abuse that led to the ban:
-- Using AmeriCorps members to "recruit students for St. HOPE Academy."
-- Using AmeriCorps members for political activities in connection with the "Sacramento Board of Education election."
-- Assigning grant-funded AmeriCorps members to perform services for Johnson such as "driving (him) to personal appointments, washing (his) car, and running personal errands."
-- Improperly using AmeriCorps "members to perform non-AmeriCorps clerical and other services" that "were outside the scope of the grant and therefore were impermissible" for "the benefit of St. HOPE."