Congressman seeks to eliminate Election Assitance Commission

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With America facing a debt crisis, legislatures have gone spelunking for areas of government to cut.

Mississippi Republican Rep. Gregg Harper has surfaced with a proposal to eliminate what Ronald Reagan once quipped was the nearest thing to eternal life: a government agency.

Harper’s bill would terminate the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which Congress created in 2002 to implement the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The act was passed primarily to distribute funds to update voting equipment, a job which Harper says is essentially complete.

He is not the only one that believes that. Last year, the National Association of Secretaries of State reaffirmed a 2005 resolution requesting that Congress eliminate the EAC since the body had “served its purpose.”

Harper estimates that getting rid of EAC would save taxpayers an estimated $14 million annually.

“You have more than fifty percent of the budget going to administration, a little over 30 percent is going to programs,” Harper told TheDC, pointing out that within three years the agency doubled their staff without adding new responsibilities. “[EAC was] only designed to be there for a few years.”

The agency also has a reputation for waste, according to Harper, who outlined a number of EAC’s wasteful initiatives in a letter of explanation he sent to state election officials.

“The EAC has a longstanding history of wasteful use of taxpayer funds: spending $6,976.50 buying shirts for employees while botching the purchase order and having 263 shirts leftover; spending $77,674.11 to hire a management consultant to produce an obsequious feel-good report that called the executive director ‘indeed a man of both courage and vision’; and having such poor control of travel expenses that when I asked the chief financial officer to account for $475,000 in travel funds with no specified purpose from the budget request, no agency official at the hearing could answer the question,” Harper wrote, adding that charges of discrimination against the agency has also resulted in taxpayers having to pay at least one monetary settlement.

If Harper’s bill passes, EAC’s remaining responsibilities would be dispersed between the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

“By eliminating the EAC, we are furthering our commitment to eradicate wasteful spending and inefficiencies in government operations,” Harper said.

The bill is pending in the House subcommittee on Elections and currently has 21 co-sponsors. The subcommittee is expected to be mark up the bill this month.

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Caroline May