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The Overview Published:Dec 1, 2021

Waste Watch: Election Assistance Commission Federal Grants

The Waste Watch is a newsletter exposing wasteful federal government spending and brought to you by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Republicans.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress appropriated $400 million in grant funding to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the pandemic for the 2020 federal election cycle.

Unfortunately, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has failed to conduct proper oversight over these multi-million dollar taxpayer funded grants. The failure has resulted in widespread fraud and mismanagement of taxpayer dollars.  

Let’s take a closer look…

For over a year, Ranking Member James Comer, House Committee on Administration Ranking Member Rodney Davis, and Government Operations Subcommittee Ranking Member Jody Hice have repeatedly raised questions about the lack of oversight of federal grant funds disbursed by the EAC. 

On October 13, 2020, the lawmakers called on the EAC Inspector General (IG) to investigate the misuse of election grant funds and ensure taxpayer dollars are not being used illegally after learning former California Secretary of State Alex Padilla awarded a $35 million no-bid contract to Joe Biden’s main campaign advisory firm, SKD Knickerbocker, to contact voters.

On December 3, 2020, the lawmakers reiterated their request for the EAC IG to take immediate action and conduct an investigation into the suspicious contract awarded to SKD Knickerbocker.
 
On February 19, 2021, the lawmakers slammed the EAC IG for refusing to investigate or even publicly acknowledge the issues surrounding the SKD contract and other potential grant violations and called on Inspector General Layfield to resign.

On March 18, 2021, the lawmakers expressed doubt over the EAC’s ability to properly protect taxpayers from waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement, and requested information into the Commission’s policies and procedures.

On June 17, 2021, after Inspector General Layfield stepped down after refusing to do her job, the lawmakers applauded the EAC IG for finally initiating an audit into 2020 election grants, including the $35 million grant awarded to Joe Biden’s main campaign advisory firm.

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) validates the concerns the lawmakers have raised for over a year.

The GAO report states that the EAC has only reported on $326 million of the $400 million CARES Act grant funds. Millions of taxpayer dollars remain unaccounted for.

In fact…

Even with what was reported, GAO found a substantial amount of issues. Minimal oversight by the EAC is potentially enabling significant waste, fraud, and abuse by numerous states. 

Time for an…

The GAO report confirms concerns about the $35 million contract awarded to SKD Knickerbocker to contact voters. 

Documents show that the Secretary of State’s Office attempted to inappropriately fund the contract with federal Help America Vote Act money from the CARES Act to contact voters, which is a violation of the law.

On November 19, 2021, Ranking Member Comer and top House Republicans called on newly appointed EAC Inspector General Brianna Schletz to provide information about efforts to investigate waste, fraud, and abuse of federal election grant funds and to provide an update on the audit of the SKD Knickerbocker contract. 

While the EAC OIG committed to auditing the contract, the audit has been unnecessarily delayed not only by the California Secretary of State’s Office but also by the EAC OIG’s own recalcitrance, raising questions about apparent efforts to thwart appropriate oversight of the contract. 

Click on the below letter to learn more about their request.

Republicans will continue to hold the EAC accountable for any misuse of taxpayer dollars. Democrats should return their focus to the core mission of the Oversight and Reform Committee to root out waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement and ensure the federal government is accountable to the American people.

To learn more about the EAC and the likely illegal contract awarded to SKD Knickerbocker, watch Ranking Member James Comer’s October interview with Tucker Carlson.