Grassley Presses National Science Foundation on Violations of Laws on Funding Lobbying
WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley is pressing the National Science Foundation inspector general to account for any response to what appears to be clear violations of laws prohibiting funding of lobbying by an agency grantee. Grassley cited significant lobbying expenses by the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), a National Science Foundation grantee.
“The law is clear: federal funds cannot be used to pay for lobbying. And yet, that is exactly what happened here,” Grassley wrote to Allison C. Lerner, inspector general of the National Science Foundation.
Grassley cited several laws as well as agency determinations that preclude certain activities from being funded, including spending federal grant money on lobbying: the Byrd Anti-Lobbying Amendment; the Anti-Deficiency Act; a Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel opinion; and an Office of Management and Budget Controller Alert in April 2015 specifically to combat NEON’s expenditures on alcohol, lavish parties, including a $25,000 Christmas party, and lobbying.
Grassley asked whether the inspector general has investigated to determine whether the use of taxpayer funds for lobbying was a violation of the Byrd Amendment and the Anti-Deficiency Act and if not, why not; whether the inspector general has determined whether she or the National Science Foundation should report the potential Anti-Deficiency Act violation to the President and/or Congress and if not, why not; whether the inspector general has consulted with the Government Accountability Office regarding the potential Anti-Deficiency Act violation and if not, why not; and what steps the inspector general has taken to ensure that the National Science Foundation no longer funds lobbying activities, with a detailed explanation of her recommendations to the National Science Foundation and to what extent the agency agrees with and is implementing them.
Grassley noted that the inappropriate spending came to his attention through a whistleblower. “Otherwise, it may never have come to light,” Grassley said. “I appreciate having whistleblowers come forward to correct wrongdoing and look out for taxpayers.”
The text of Grassley’s letter is available here.