Murray Waas has partnered up with ABC's Brian Ross to expose yet another Department of Justice scandal, in which cronyism and politics trumped policy. This time, though, the victims are children.
Here's what the Office of Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention is supposed to do, according to their mission statement:
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) provides national leadership, coordination, and resources to prevent and respond to juvenile delinquency and victimization. OJJDP supports states and communities in their efforts to develop and implement effective and coordinated prevention and intervention programs and to improve the juvenile justice system so that it protects public safety, holds offenders accountable, and provides treatment and rehabilitative services tailored to the needs of juveniles and their families.
Those programs, according to their program guide, are supposed to be modeled on "evidence-based prevention and intervention programs that can make a difference in the lives of children and communities." So where has the grant money been going?
A senior Justice Department official says a $500,000 federal grant to the World Golf Foundation is an appropriate use of money designed to deal with juvenile crime in America.
"We need something really attractive to engage the gangs and the street kids, golf is the hook," said J. Robert Flores, the administrator of the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
The Justice Department, in a decision by Flores, gave the money to the World Golf Foundation's First Tee program, even though Justice Department staffers had rated the program 47th on a list of 104 applicants. The allegations were first reported earlier this year by the trade journal Youth Today.
"I don't know why people insist on denigrating it, it's a sound program," Flores told ABC News.
Current and former Justice Department employees allege that Flores ignored the staff rankings in favor of programs that had political, social or religious connections to the Bush White House.
The honorary chairman of the First Tee program is former President George Bush. On a videotape presentation, the former President Bush praised the program for "serving others and building character and building values."
That's right, golf. And baseball, and football. So the VISTA program in San Diego that provides alternatives to gang activity for the city's troubled teens, despite its top ranking by staff, was overlooked so the money could go to a friend of the administration. The same with the program in Florida, intended to teach adult prison guards how to deal with teens in custody, to prevent them from being abused. The OJJDP is also supposed to fund efforts to remove kids from adult jails, where they are preyed upon by adult inmates.
But under the Bush administration, at risk teens can't compete against the President's buddies. Among the other programs that were funded is a Washington, DC program, Best Friends. It promotes abstinence, and was "awarded $1.1 million by Flores even though it ranked 53rd on a list of 104 applicants." Incidentally, Best Friends is run by Elayne Bennett, wife of Bill Bennett. You remember him, the Republican party's favorite gambling addict whose solution to solving crime is to "abort every black baby in this country." How fitting.
In the follow up to the story, Waas reports that the DOJ has started an investigation. But in true Bush administration fashion, the investigation isn't into the waste, fraud, abuse and cronyism by Flores.
While working on this Nightline story, which reported that about at least a half dozen DOJ employees have come forward to blow the whistle on their boss, J. Robert Flores, the administrator of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, we were able to learn that the general counsel of DOJ’s Programs Office has investigated several of the career officials were allegedly leaking; that career officials have felt intimidated; others have been called in by superiors and colleagues and accused of disloyalty; and in one case, a DOJ employee had the hard drive of his computer seized.
Rep. Henry Waxman has scheduled hearings on this scandal for sometime next week, and as Murray says, hopefully he'll also investigate the department's intimidation of DOJ employees.
Update: Note that the story was originally broken by Youth Today.