House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco district may receive $200 million in taxpayer money for a national park that has multiple top Pelosi donors on its board.
Fox News reported that the $200 million for the Presidio national park is included in the House Democrats’ $3.5 trillion spending bill. Overseeing the park is the Presidio Trust, which has several Democratic donors on its board. Collectively, the members have given hundreds of thousands of dollars to efforts supported by Pelosi.
Among those on the board who have contributed to Pelosi’s campaign is Lynne Benioff, the trust’s chair, who gave Pelosi nearly $80,000 in campaign and PAC donations, according to FEC filings examined by Fox News.
Board member George Marcus has also donated $33.6 million to Democrat campaigns and candidates, with $723,000 going to Pelosi’s campaign and the Nancy Pelosi Victory Fund.
Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill told Fox that the park was established before the current members joined the board. He also rejected the suggestion that the donors’ presence on the board influenced the decision to earmark $200 million in taxpayer dollars for the park, calling it a “made-up silly thing out of disinformation.”
Hammill said the speaker is “known for preserving the Presidio” throughout her time in office.
The executive director for the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, Kendra Arnold, warned in an email to Fox News that officials selecting specific projects can lead to “corruption” at taxpayers’ expense.
“As with all earmarks, allowing members of Congress to pick and choose specific projects is a clear recipe for corruption and self-dealing at the taxpayer’s expense,” Arnold said. “Additionally, earmarks make it too easy to create a situation where the merit of the project doesn’t matter.”
“Given the relationships and connections in this case, it certainly raises concerns,” she added.
In an email to Fox News, another spokesperson said Pelosi has “worked with a broad coalition of community, business and civic leaders to preserve the Presidio” after it was closed in 1994.
The spokesperson said the national park is trying to tackle a “$400 million backlog in deferred maintenance needs, including replacing and upgrading the aged utilities inherited from the Army.”
“Funding to help cover this massive backlog was unfortunately left out of the Great American Outdoors Act, which came over from the Republican Senate,” the spokesperson said. “This law provided funding for similar deferred maintenance needs at other units of the national park system.”
The spokesperson also said the $200 million earmark was suggested “to bolster the Presidio Trust, which can be used to immediately tackled deferred maintenance needs as well as continue the rehabilitation of the renaming historic buildings.”
“These costs are necessary for the park’s upkeep,” the spokesperson continued. “In contrast, House Republicans have repeatedly voted to gut funding for public lands and public spaces, as recently as today: voting in the same markup to cut funding for public lands and public spaces from other amendments.”
The massive earmark has led Republican lawmakers in the House to raise the alarm. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), who is ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told Fox in an email that the speaker “is taking money from taxpayers to reward her rich friends in San Francisco.”
“The Democrats’ reckless spending spree will waste 200 million taxpayer dollars on a park exclusively in Pelosi’s wealthy home district,” Barrasso said. “By law, the park is supposed to be financially self-sufficient. Many of the individuals who run this park are major political donors to Pelosi and other Democrats.”
“Now Nancy Pelosi is insisting on dishing out hundreds of millions of dollars to her favorite park that’s run by her biggest donors,” he added. “This isn’t building back better. It’s Pelosi’s pork park.”