The Chicago-based community organizer group the National Training and Information Center received more than $200,000 to train employees of other community organizations, but instead used the money to send its own employees to Washington D.C. to lobby for more funds. The misappropriated cash was part of more than $3.1 million in total government funds the NTIC received between 2000 and 2002.
The U.S. Attorney’s office busted the organization, accusing it of violating a law that prevents public grants from being used to influence Congress, the Chicago Tribune reported. The group settled with the U.S. Attorney’s office to pay back $550,000 to the government — more than double the misused funds — and could have been forced to pay even more under the False Claims Act, which says defendants can face fines of up to three times actual damages.
This should serve as a warning to groups that try to misuse stimulus funds. Just as genies don’t let you use wishes to wish for more wishes, the government doesn’t lend you money to ask it for more money.