Yesterday, POGO released "Getting Byrned by Justice: Favoritism in the Department of Justice Byrne Discretionary Grant Program." The report reveals that the Department of Justice (DOJ) awarded at least 13 Byrne Discretionary Grants in FY2007 without evaluating them through the peer review process, essentially giving them special treatment. Even more alarming, the report goes on to detail conflicts of interest between two of the grantees and DOJ appointees in the offices awarding the grants.
The report was referenced in a story by Carrie Johnson in yesterday's Washington Post. Johnson wrote, "...POGO, a watchdog group, McCaskill and current and former Justice Department employees have raised questions about the prestigious Byrne grant program, which dispatches a huge amount of money each year to groups that battle crime."
Following the release of our report, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD) wrote a letter to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), saying "I too am appalled that the DOJ may have played favorites with competitive grants. I find this especially troubling at a time when we are fighting for more funding for Byrne grants for communities who are facing rising crime and fiscal hardships."
In light of yesterday's House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on "Grant Making Practices at the Department of Justice," our report is especially timely. Although the hearing focused exclusively on grants awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), our report should open the door for further investigations by Congress.
Today's Washington Post had a follow-up story referencing both yesterday's hearing and POGO's investigation into the Byrne grant program.
-- Jake Wiens
UPDATE: Jake is scheduled to appear on Federal News Radio (WFED) at 4:00 p.m. today to discuss our investigation. Click here to listen to a live webcast of the show.