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While Christine O’Donnell was Opining About Masturbation, Chris Coons Was Mis-Managing Public Funds

Morgen on September 20, 2010 at 5:07 pm

As a twenty-something political-religious activist over a decade ago Christine O’Donnell said a few things about her personal religious beliefs that are now being amplified throughout the media. Even our local paper here in Orange County, CA picked up the ridiculous “Christine O’Donnell admitted to practicing witchcraft” story. With the lefty blogosphere still working feverishly to dig up every snippet they can find, I thought it only fair that Chris Coons be given the same treatment.

I ended up finding something that in a normal election environment probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But it seems far more relevant than what Christine O’Donnell said about masturbation ten years ago. It speaks directly to Coon’s competence in overseeing public funds, and may also suggest something about his ethics and integrity.

Back in the 90′s Chris Coons was a senior staff member  for a non-profit organization focused on youth education called the “I Have a Dream Foundation”. One of his primary achievements was setting up a national-level partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service (Americorps), from which he obtained over $1.9M in federal grant money over the first two years. A sizable chunk of change.

Americorps subsequently contracted with a third party auditor to assess the accounting systems of the IHAD Foundation for federal compliance. The results were not positive. The full report is available here, but here were the basic findings (click to enlarge):

For those wondering whether Coons even had anything to do with this, it was Coons who responded in detail to the lapses in compliance identified by the auditor. In a letter dated May 1, 1996, Coons addressed each of the items in some detail, largely admitting culpability, but also engaging in some finger-pointing and excuse-making to justify the mistakes made by his organization.

The second finding, the one regarding accounting for labor hours, was actually directed at Coons personally, as he had not completed any timesheets to substantiate the allocation of his time which had been charged to the Americorps grant. The amount in question was not large ($3,630.78), but the auditor was focused on Coons because his role included lobbying and fundraising activities which cannot be lawfully charged against a federal grant.

In his response letter, Coons indicated that he had subsequently “located” several of the missing timesheets, and that he had “reconstructed” all the others using status reports the auditor had previously not been made aware of. To which the auditor replied (click to enlarge):

You’re not allowed to re-create documentation after an audit has been conducted – who knew?

Ultimately all of Coons’ excuses and after the fact attempts to cover-up the failures of his organization amounted to nothing, as the final report from the Inspector General included all of the original findings of the auditor.

While Coons remains on the board of the I Have a Dream Foundation to this day, and proudly touts his involvement on his campaign web site, he did not stick around to ensure that all the problems identified by the auditor were corrected. He resigned as an active staff member just two days after the final audit report was issued, leaving others to deal with the impact of the audit.

Maybe this is no big deal, it was after all a long time ago. But it’s interesting to note that while Christine O’Donnell was passionately defending her personal beliefs as a very young woman in the 90′s – beliefs for which she is now being incessantly mocked – Chris Coons was overseeing the expenditure of almost $2 million in tax payer funds, without the legally-mandated financial controls in place to ensure the money was spent appropriately.

Personal religious beliefs versus the public trust. The media may be more interested in attacking and embarrassing O’Donnell, but I have a strong feeling which of these issues would resonate more with voters.

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