Politics & Policy

Red-Light Appropriation

Liberal advocacy group with lewd website gets big earmark.

Does Hillary Clinton want you to know about her $350,000 earmark for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis? The group is set to get $350,000 in taxpayers’ money out of the appropriations bill on the Senate floor this week. Visitors to GMHC’s website (not safe for work) are greeted by a small photograph of a man’s rear end, with his briefs, to put it gently, fitting a bit too snugly. The caption is, “Syphilis Is Creeping Up!”

Scroll past that bottom to the bottom of their homepage, and there is a “CDC Disclaimer” stating that “This site contains HIV prevention messages that may not be appropriate for all audiences.” They ought to move that to the top.

Lawmakers like to say that they know better than faceless bureaucrats, where money should be spent in their states and districts. That is their defense of the practice of “earmarking” federal money for special pet projects. But some earmarks throw this line of argument into question.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D., N.Y.), a candidate for president, and her Empire State colleague Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) requested the $350,000 for GMHC for a methamphetamine program. This earmark appears on page 91 of the report accompanying the Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill, which was on the Senate floor this week. The bill will now go to conference between the House and Senate.

The writing on GMHC’s website is quite graphic. It uses the f-word more liberally than one might expect — not as an expletive, but to refer to the sexual act in both adjective and verb form. The site’s small section on methamphetamine usage also employs the common vulgar word for the male anatomy (not the only place the word appears on the site), in the course of informing readers that meth can have one of two opposite effects on that body part and its ability to function.

The group’s website also includes a list of legislative causes it supports and opposes (this pdf is safe for work) GMHC wants to end the federal ban on tax-funded needle exchanges and pass an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that treats sexual preference as if it were a racial or religious category. GMHC wants to stop the line-item veto (since it could cut off some of their funding) and abolish funding for abstinence education (eliminating competitors for limited federal money).

GMHC wants to distribute condoms in prison, while at the same time maintaining a policy of strict confidentiality for HIV-infected prisoners. They want to allow men who have sex with men to donate blood for transfusions. GMHC also calls on Congress to change immigration law so that more HIV/AIDS-infected persons can enter the United States.

At the very least, all of these provisions are controversial. Many of them appear to be dangerous and could help spread HIV instead of containing it.

GMHC spokesman Noel Alicea did not immediately know specifics about what the $350,000 would fund when I called him yesterday. The group may do serious work with methamphetamine addicts — it does have a Meth hotline listed on its website.

But since money is fully fungible, Schumer and Clinton are essentially asking taxpayers to fund everything the group does, including its controversial agenda and a website that is lewd far beyond anything that scientific health-education requires.

GMHC may have every right to advocate and educate as it sees fit, but does it need to do so with taxpayers’ money, awarded in this non-competitive process? Is there any less controversial group that might be a more suitable recipient, which could help homosexual methamphetamine addicts in New York City? GMHC already raises a multi-million dollar budget each year — does it need $350,000 in taxpayer funds? Will taxpayers’ $350,000 help GMHC tell readers to avoid methamphetamine because it will affect their “long f*** sessions,” but at least urge them to use clean needles if they must shoot up?

Finally, will Hillary Clinton want to award more such grants when she becomes president? She cannot be completely unfamiliar with the group’s activities, considering that she attended their annual dinner and fundraiser in March. Her office did not respond to inquiries about the earmark.

The Clinton-Schumer earmarks in this bill — including another $200,000 earmark for the American Ballet Company — certainly stand out among the others as something taxpayers should question. The two New York senators have also attached their names to a $1 million earmark, in another appropriations bill, for a Woodstock concert museum. This money comes at the request of a major campaign contributor, according to USA Today.

To be sure, there is no guarantee that “faceless bureaucrats” would award government grants any better than individual legislators. But legislators — and a few legislators in particular — are not known for showing good judgement when they choose how to spread taxpayers’ money to their supporters.

– David Freddoso is an NRO staff reporter.

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