A top 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, reports ABC’s Nightline. “We need something really attractive to engage the gangs and the street kids, golf is the hook,” said J. Robert Flores, administrator of the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. 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 by the trade journal Youth Today. “I don’t know why people insist on denigrating it, it’s a sound program,” Flores told ABC.
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 First Tee 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.” The golf program grant is one of a number of Justice Department grants now coming under scrutiny by a Congressional committee which will hold hearings next week. A key witness will be a former employee of Flores, Scott Peterson, who says the grants were awarded based more on politics than merit. “This is cronyism, this is waste, fraud and abuse,” Peterson told Nightline.