Recovery Board Response to Blogger Michelle Malkin
In a recent column, Michelle Malkin made a number of misstatements. The Recovery Board takes issue with those statements. The following is the Board’s response e-mailed to her today:
In your recent column, “Porkulus: Cash for Tax Cheats,” you are understandably disturbed by the number of recipients receiving Recovery Act funds despite owing millions in unpaid corporate, payroll and other taxes. So are we. Far from having “patted itself on the back for its transparency,” the Recovery Board would like to stop this sort of egregious break of faith with the taxpaying public, but we cannot do so for two reasons.
First, the Recovery Board does not give out the stimulus money and has no involvement whatsoever in what states, institutions or businesses receive contracts, grants or loans. That is a decision made solely by the 28 federal agencies charged with distributing Recovery funds.
Second, IRS information is confidential, and neither the Recovery Board nor the agency giving out this money has access to information on tax liabilities of a potential recipient. Although the Government Accountability Office was able to review the records of many recipients that owe taxes, you find no names or identifying characteristics in the GAO report. That is because of the confidentiality of this data.
If you had read the GAO report, you would find that the Recovery Board and one of its members, J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, have raised repeatedly the lack of adequate oversight of Recovery spending and tax delinquencies because of this inability to access IRS tax information.
The Recovery Board, in its response, also pointed out that if we had access to this information, we could use unpaid tax data and other related information to create a risk-based model that government agencies could rely on when evaluating potential recipients of federal contracts, grants and loans.
You should also understand that the Recovery Board is not, as you write, “the Obama administration’s stimulus oversight board.’’ Congress created the Board as an independent agency.
We would have gladly discussed these issues and the type of information the Recovery Board can use in identifying potential fraud, waste and abuse of Recovery funds if you had contacted us before writing your column. Perhaps if you better understood the situation, you might have called for a change in the laws and regulations to correct this serious shortcoming rather than incorrectly accusing the Recovery Board of failing “to stop the plundering in the name of job creation.”
Finally, please feel free to publish this letter.
Director of Communications
Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board