Millions in stimulus dollars are apparently flowing to nonexistent congressional districts in Oklahoma because of data entry problems with the federal government’s Web site. The tally includes $11.6 million to Oklahoma’s 25th Congressional District and $10 million to its 51st District. The state has just five congressional districts. The errors have given plenty of ammunition to opponents of the American Recovery and Reconstruction Act, the $787 billion package of tax cuts and spending that passed earlier this year. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma City, said she had little confidence in the stimulus data released so far. Fallin, who is running for governor, voted against the stimulus bill. "I’ve been very disappointed to learn there is fraudulent information on the Web site as far as how many jobs have been created, and certainly with fake congressional district numbers that don’t match up to the five congressional seats Oklahoma has,” Fallin said. The errors go beyond simple data entry mistakes, she said. They also don’t inspire much confidence in the government as debate over health care reform continues in Washington. "We’re talking about turning over one-sixth of our economy and our personal health to the federal government, and here they can’t even administer the stimulus money and track it on a Web site,” Fallin said.
Where the money appears to be goingData released through the government’s Recovery.gov Web site show Fallin’s district appears to be reaping the lion’s share of stimulus funding in Oklahoma. A review of the data shows more than $1.3 billion in grants, loans and contracts have been awarded in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District. That amount is almost half the state’s total stimulus haul to date. But many of the large, direct awards that go to the state or state agencies are put in Fallin’s Oklahoma City district by default because it includes the state Capitol. Meanwhile, about $433 million has been awarded in the 2nd Congressional District represented by Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, who voted for stimulus legislation. Boren said a road to a new hospital in Muskogee is just one of many worthy projects in his district. He said transparency is a noble goal for the stimulus package and most of the information has been reported correctly. "Anytime you deal with something this large, there are going to be errors, whether it’s the folks filling out the forms or the actual people running the Web site,” Boren said. "My hope is it will get corrected in short order.” Just 27 Oklahoma reports listed congressional districts that don’t exist, according to the review. Still, that represents almost $25 million in stimulus awards, or almost 1 percent of the $2.77 billion awarded to Oklahoma so far. "If there is a 51st District, I wish they’d send it all to the 2nd District, whatever’s left over,” Boren quipped. "We’ll take it.” About $155 million from 433 separate stimulus reports in Oklahoma do not list a congressional district at all. The information is supposed to be mandatory, according to guidelines for recipients set by the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board that oversees stimulus spending. The Oklahoman’s Watchdog Team: Looking out for you. Visit NewsOK.com/watchdog
Read past stories about the economic stimulus package, on NewsOK.com, keyword "stimulus.”