Congress-created commission funded by taxpayers, won't release how money is spent

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by KMOV.com Staff

KMOV.com

Posted on February 26, 2013 at 6:45 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 26 at 8:03 PM

(KMOV.com) -- With sequestration cuts on the horizon, and billions of dollars being pared from the federal budget, calls for transparency and accountability are at an all-time high.

Taxpayers are spending millions of dollars on organizations that don’t provide direct services back to the populace.

The leaders of one of these groups are flying around the world, and refuse to explain how they’re spending that money.  

With a federal budget of $3.5 million, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is committed to defending the rights of people around the world, and its leaders fly around the world doing it.

The group’s website has photos of meetings with officials in 16 countries, including China, Egypt , Iran and Nigeria.

Even though the mission is admirable, Republican Congressman John Shimkus still questions the need for a multi-million dollar organization with little accountability.

“In this era, when we’re really tight, it’s hard to justify,” he said.

But the commission on International Religiouis Freedom was created by Congress, and just a year ago Congress extended its life to at least 2018. This came despite Senator Dick Durbin’s stance that group had too much control by people who had been with the organization for too long.

“We had to remove some people on the board who wouldn’t leave,” he said.

The group has strong connections to legendary Congressman Tom Lantos, a holocaust survivor. Lantos’ daughter, an unsuccessful candidate for Congress, runs the organization. Her husband was a Congressman. 

News 4 requested information on how the commission spends taxpayer money, but the organization refused to say. Because as a commission created by Congress, it doesn’t have to comply with the Freedom of Information Act.

Our investigation also hit on the Japan-United States Friendship Commission, which has a budget of $2.3 million, and also refused to tell us how it spends taxpayer money. 

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