The stated mission of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute is to teach the general public about how the U.S. Senate works, so it’s fitting that the shrine to the late Massachusetts Democrat is funded, in part, by $38 million in taxpayers’ money.
The $78 million combination museum and interactive civics exhibit was formally dedicated by President Obama on Monday. Besides a section honoring Kennedy’s 46-year political career, which ended with his Aug. 25, 2009 death, the Institute will offer a “Senate Immersion Module” which aims to teach visitors how the upper chamber works.
Situated next to the exclusively privately funded John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, the Institute has raised over $80 million in private funding and is set to charge a steep $16 entry fee to adult visitors.
A swanky gala held Sunday likely added more to the Institute’s $50 million endowment. There, attendees were given the opportunity to pay $250,000 to join the non-profit’s “chairman’s circle.” Tickets to the event ranged from $50,000 down to $2,500, the Boston Herald reported.
But all of that dough is apparently not enough to keep the 40,000 square foot Institute up and running.
On top of an $18.9 million Defense Department grant doled out in Sept. 2010, the Institute received $13.6 million from the Department of Education, according to USASpending.gov. In the 2009 federal budget, another $5.8 million was appropriated through the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services.
The state of Massachusetts gave the University of Massachusetts $5 million, earmarked for the Institute. As a senator in 2010, current Sec. of State John Kerry waged an unsuccessful attempt to earmark another $28.9 million for the museum, columnist John Fund wrote on Monday.
Fitting for a career politician known as “the liberal lion.”
Kennedy’s friends in the Senate are responsible for helping steer so much money to the Institute.
As The New York Times noted Monday, the $18.9 million Defense Department earmark was “funneled through the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.” That panel was once led by Kennedy pals, the late Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye and the late Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, The Times’ Carl Hulse noted.
“Here’s an unstated lesson: It pays to have friends running the Appropriations Committee,” Hulse wrote.
In an interview with The Boston Globe, Institute director Jean F. MacCormack explained that the hefty federal funding is a necessity, despite its massive private haul.
“Why public money? Because you’re providing back to the taxpayers an opportunity to participate for free,” MacCormack said.
“The children of the taxpayers,” she clarified.
While Massachusetts residents under the age of 18 are admitted for free, adults must pay $16. There are discounts for veterans and seniors.
“We got $38 million in federal funding and that came from the Department of Education, of course in support of civic education,” MacCormack said. “It’s an endowment, so we can spend the earnings, but not the principal.” (RELATED: Ted Kennedy Shrine To Cost Taxpayers Lots Of Money)