Washington, D.C., council members have used an independent nonprofit organization to steer millions of taxpayer dollars to favored charities, often with ties to friends or campaign donors, says the Washington Post. The organization, the D.C. Children and Youth Investment Trust Corp., was created by the council to decide independently which local charities best address problems facing city youths. But the Post found that council members often influence those decisions, sometimes without public bids and despite a council ban on earmarks.
Several private donors have become so disenchanted with the trust that they have stopped participating in it. The trust's board members are appointed by city officials, and it uses a combination of city funds and private donations, with most coming from taxpayers. City officials directed more than $15 million in the past four years to the trust through earmarks or designated grants. The earmarks, which were standard practice until last year, specified a group without bidding. Under the ban on earmarks, designated grants specified only a purpose that required bidding, but some officials helped choose the recipients.