Monday, January 07, 2013

Illinois still trying to recover 2001 grant cash for Obama's Englewood garden

"Obama garden" in 2009
In 2000 state Sen. Barack Obama was running for Congress against incumbent Bobby Rush. Obama lost that race--his only political defeat.

Part of his effort to win that race was spending other people's money--taxpayer cash, of course. He arranged for a group controlled by a campaign contributor, Kenny B. Smith, to receive a $100,000 state grant create a garden in the crime-ridden Englewood neighborhood--which was not in his state Senate district, but it was in that congressional district.

Little work was done--and by 2008 the garden consisted of a Home Depot-type gazebo and lots of weeds.

What should have been a lesson for Obama--government is not adept at spending money wisely--was lost on him. Obama has gone from throwing away $100,000 to hundreds of billions of dollars on such boondoggles as Solyndra and pricey car batteries. Sadly for taxpayers, Obama is a prisoner of his left-wing big government ideology.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:
◆ The housing association's board had hired K.D. Contractors — owned by Smith's wife, Karen D. Smith — as its subcontractor for the garden. The company, which the association claimed was the low bidder on the project, was to oversee construction including a $20,000 catch basin, $20,000 of drain tile and $18,600 of sewer pipe. But the only improvements on the garden site as of 2008 appeared to be that some trees had been cut down and a gazebo — which wasn't part of the original grant agreement — had been built.

◆ Smith wrote $65,000 in checks from the grant proceeds directly to his wife, whom he later said hired another subcontractor to do the bulk of the work. He wrote another $20,000 in grant-related checks to his wife’s company, which has since gone out of business.

◆ The subcontractor identified by Smith, a man named Rodolfo Marin, told the Sun-Times in 2008 that his company, Marin Construction, did only about $3,000 of work at the site, leveling it with a Bobcat earthmover and cutting down trees.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which oversaw the garden grant and hundreds of others like it, questioned the hiring of Smith’s wife's company in late 2003 but months later signed off on the way the grant money was spent, records show. The state agency retained the right, though, to recoup the grant funds if it found future evidence of "ineligible expenditures" or "fraudulent or false" information.
Over four years after the investigation of the garden started, Illinois' attorney general is still investigating this mess. And the state wants its money back. Perhaps it can ask Obama for some stimulus cash to cover his 2001 mistake. After all, it is free money when the government pays, right?

In 2011, I visited the garden--it was fixed up a bit. But by another organization and it didn't even cost $10,000.

Related posts:

Flashback: Obama's 2001 pork garden--a waste of taxpayer money

Obama's first stimulus finally completed--10 years later

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