ABC News today reports on the mysterious – and seriously shady – granting of one million dollars in tax-payer funds to an abstinence-only organization called Best Friends.
Best Friends received the money – double what it had requested from the Department of Justice through its juvenile justice office – despite more than 40 other organizations rating much higher as grantees for these funds.
One such agency, RAINN (the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) – devoted for many years to advocating for victims of rape and sexual assault, the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization, and "one of America’s 100 best charities" according to Worth Magazine (I’m just saying) – was granted no federal money at all.
According to ABC News:
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Among other things, RAINN runs a telephone hotline for victims
of rape and sexual assault, which has put hundreds of thousands of
victims together with local rape crisis centers. In the category of
OJJDP grants for which both organizations applied, Best Friends ranked
51st, while RAINN came in at 14th. RAINN did not receive a grant from
What’s going on?
Elayne Bennett, president and founder of Best Friends, happens to be close friends with Chief Administrator at the DOJ office that oversees these grants, J. Robert Flores. Bennett, the wife of Bill Bennett (former Reagan and Bush administration official and voice-of-racism over the conservative political commentating radio waves) reportedly spoke to Flores on the phone often and had access to him that other potential grantees did not.
Flores even attended gala fundraising events for Best Friends.
ABC News reports that DOJ staffers became suspicious when Best Friends applied for a $500,000 grant even though the agency backed out of the Mathematica Study (a government report that found abstinence-only programs to be ineffective), ranked only 53rd out of 104 organizations in an internal review process to determine the most fundable agencies for these grants, and failed to initially comply with the proper reporting about how it was spending tax-payer money.
In fact, one DOJ staffer became so irate, that he resigned over the blatantly inappropriate and unethical use of tax-payer funds changing hands.
What does Elayne Bennett have to say about the allegations her organization received undeserved funds from the government?
"We’re really about positive friendships. And a good, solid friendship is a beautiful thing," she said.
I’m sure it is, Elayne. It’s worked well for you.
May I suggest donating to RAINN in honor of Elayne Bennett?
Thanks to the ACLU’s Take Issue, Take Charge blog for the story.