December 13, 2007 ONLINE EDITION
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King was right

In September, we took our congressman, Steve King, to task for voting against a $52 billion aid package for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

King - who was just one of 11 members of Congress who voted against the package which passed both houses and was signed by President Bush - based his vote on the need for "fiscal responsibility." He said the federal government needed to develop a comprehensive plan for spending aid dollars, including input from members of Congress, before more money was appropriated. He earlier had voted for a $10.5 billion emergency aid package.

Well, after reading an Associated Press story about a report that details how perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars in Katrina disaster aid have been misspent, it appears we were wrong and King was right about his vote on the $52 billion.

The report issued Monday by the Government Accountability Office and the Homeland Security Department's inspector general paint an appalling picture of how huge amounts of federal aid was squandered through overcharges, poor accounting and abuses. Among the GAO findings: 900,000 of the 2.5 million applicants who received aid under an emergency cash assistance program based their requests on duplicate or invalid Social Security numbers or false addresses and names.

GAO auditor Gregory Kutz told senators during a hearing on Monday that the total dollar figure of waste and abuse was "certainly millions of dollars; it could be tens or hundreds of millions of dollars."

This sordid tale takes the oft-repeated axiom about wasteful government spending to an almost grotesque level - and it is nothing less than unacceptable. American taxpayers in general, and the unfortunate victims of natural disasters more specifically, deserve and must receive better than that from the federal government.

In an interview with The Journal's Des Moines bureau following his vote against the second Katrina aid package late last summer, King said he couldn't support "... blank check spending without accountability ..."

"I put up a principled vote, and I believe that my vote will be easier to defend every day as the public begins to see where the money is being spent," said King.

Indeed.

In a Sept. 13 editorial critical of King for his Katrina assistance vote, we said, "America needs to get money - both public and private - into the pipeline immediately, then trust that those charged with distributing the funds do so prudently."

Where public money is concerned, that trust now appears to have been sadly misplaced.



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