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Pork City: Congress Spent $1.7 Million on a Hotel That Never Was

Written by Gary North on April 5, 2012

This is a fine example of how Congress spends us blind.

In February 2003, former U.S. Rep. James Walsh used his influence as a senior congressman to secure $1.7 million in federal tax dollars to help with the Carousel Center expansion known as Destiny USA.

Congress approved the spending without public debate. The money was intended to help clean up toxic soil buried under the mall’s parking lot, making way for the planned Grand Destiny Hotel, Walsh said when he announced the grant.

Now, nine years later, there is no hotel. No contaminated dirt has been removed. It remains buried under the parking lot.

Destiny USA’s developers didn’t return Walsh’s earmark. Instead, executives found a new way to spend the tax money, this time on environmentally-friendly technology.

One critic said it’s not a surprise that a private company could dramatically rewrite its grant years later and that city officials have a sketchy paper trail of the spending.

The government watchdog group, Taxpayers for Common Sense, views the Destiny spending as symbolic — typical of the wasteful pork from the days when Congress directed money to special projects in the home districts of influential members through secretive earmarks.

Nine years after the earmark and three years after Walsh left office, federal auditors have forced City Hall and Destiny to dig through documents and long-archived emails to explain what happened to the money.

In January 2011, auditors for HUD’s inspector general mounted a yearlong investigation into the Destiny grant and 40 others that Syracuse received through Walsh from 1999 through 2006.

The auditors also wonder what took so long. Why were most of the promised projects not completed before a Sept. 22, 2010, HUD deadline?

Walsh said it was unusual for the grants to be amended and used for something else without congressional approval. But he said it’s clear the Destiny money was worthwhile. The mall expansion is now the largest LEED Gold certified retail building in the United States, according to the U.S. Green Building Council.

“It sounds like most of the money has been well spent,” Walsh said. “And it’s good to know the federal government is keeping track.”

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3 thoughts on “Pork City: Congress Spent $1.7 Million on a Hotel That Never Was

  1. http://www.petition2congress.c... Go to this website and sign the petition to vet Obama and check into his eligibility to be president. Send this to everybody on your mailing list. Ask them to do the same. We must keep up the pressure on congress till they do the right thing. If the link doesn't work, cut and paste.

    Government doing what it does best. Wasting money has been raised to an art form in Washington. This is one more reason we need to clamp down on the president and congress. Give them an inch and they take a mile.

  2. It's past time to stop all of the perks and pork in Congress. How dare they keep on passing bills without reading or debating.
    They "say" they represent the "people", but actually represent their own selfishness and greed. (Not all of them, but too many)

  3. If this happened in a private company to shareholders' money someone would go to jail — since it's only taxpayer's money who cares? Now you know why the nation is $15 trillion in debt, but the local supermarkets and clothing outlets balance their books.