Budget Zombies

January 23, 2013

The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold reports on a tiny federal program that House Republicans and even the Obama administration would like to terminate but that is seemingly invincible. The Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation, a grant program created in 1992, was supposed to pay for itself from the proceeds of coins honoring the 500thanniversary of Columbus’s landing in the new world. 

After the coin money ran out, however, the foundation’s board of directors ran to Congress. In 2008, Mississippi Republican Sen. Thad Cochran came to the program’s rescue with a $600,000 appropriation. It has received an annual handout ever since: 

“It’s a sort of a national treasure, if you want to know the truth about it,” said James H. Herring, a lawyer who was the board’s vice chairman until recently. Herring was also a former chairman of the Mississippi Republican Party, which had donated more than $28,000 to Republican causes, including $1,250 to Cochran’s campaigns. 

A spokesman for Cochran said the senator supported the program long before Herring, his fellow Mississippi Republican, was put on its board. Cochran, he said, believes that the program has merit and has produced “notable accomplishments.” 

Cochran himself was unavailable for an interview this week.

Yep, just a coincidence there. 

It’s almost impossible to find a program that both Democrats and Republicans want to kill. And the Columbus program is miniscule. So what does it say about the prospects for spending cuts when politicians from both parties can’t even get rid of a dinky program that neither supports?  

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