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Pork Spending of Help America Vote Act Funds

By       Message Bev Harris     Permalink
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The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) doled out billions in funds to buy voting machines that we never asked for and are now trying to get rid of, but the wasteful spending didn't stop there. The "education" funding is oinking loudly as well.

Alabama's HAVA financial reports, for example, show hundreds of thousands in public education disbursements to people listed only by first name, like "Brenda K." 

Nancy Worley, secretary of state during these expenditures, was questioned and occasionally rebuked by other Alabama officials for her spending habits. Not on these forms, because this was paid for by Alabama taxpayers instead of HAVA funds: Worley's purchase of an Eddie Bauer special edition SUV with $8000 worth of "extras."

Nancy Worley

Worley's 2003 financial report shows Alabama charging HAVA for dues to the National Association of Secretaries of State, along with two golf resort meetings for HAVA planning. "The Personal Touch" shows up on Google as a plus-size dresses vendor, so I asked about this. The director of finance told me it is a catering service for their HAVA planning meetings.
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The 2006 report contains cumulative listings from 2003-2006, including massive spending to names like "Brenda K" and "J Gary."
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Black Box Voting called the director of finance to inquire about the $80,000 flat amount for "Crimson" and all the disbursements to incomplete names, especially the hundreds of thousands to "Brenda K."

According to Jeannie Price, Finance Director for the Ala. Sec. State, the first name-only disbursements are because their accounting system truncates the name on reports. I asked her to look up "Brenda K" -- she told me it's Brenda Bagley, a media buyer. The $80,000 to "Crimson" was for public education ads for a football radio show.

The media buys seem excessive, and apparently other Alabama officials agree; it seems that Nancy Worley had a large number of ads -- featuring herself -- delivering "voter education" right before her election, which she then charged off to HAVA. Her opponent objected to this thinly veiled self promotion campaign.

Another issue: When you pay a media buyer to place ads, the payment includes the cost of the ads. The buyer takes a cut. However, the disbursement record shows Alabama paying for ad placements directly AND paying the media buyer.
And yet another issue: Simply going out and blowing three-quarters of a million on radio and TV advertising is a heck of an expensive way to "educate voters." You can send direct mail to every voter in Alabama for that amount of money. The Alabama media buys seem to be geared more towards broadcast media advertising than those of other states. (Hello Alabama, ever heard of a Public Service Announcement?)

All Alabama HAVA financial reporting forms: eports-on-state-expenditures-of-hava-funds-alabama/

When a federal agency receives accounting reports containing hundreds of thousands in disbursements to first names only, that should trigger an audit. There is no way to determine who these people are - relatives? Buddies? Someone who's last name you change your mind on if somebody makes an inquiry? When you file a report listing taxpayer disbursements to a bunch of first names, it means someone needs to go look at the check to see the real name that cashed it.

The Finance Director told me it would be a lot of work to create a report with the actual names, because she'd have to hand enter each one. I'm sure that Black Box Voting is not the only organization that would like to check out those names; I did not ask her to take that extra step, but I find the current reporting format unsatisfactory.

Sec. State Nancy Worley was not reelected, in part because of questions about her handling of finances.

A look at these forms should prompt you to have a look at your own state's financial reports, which you can find here: 


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Bev Harris is executive director of Black Box Voting, Inc. an advocacy group committed to restoring citizen oversight to elections.

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