Tucson, Ariz. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today sent a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt pushing for clarification on how the Trump administration is funding the president’s military parade and campaign rally on the Fourth of July. The Washington Post recently reported that Trump officials intend to use approximately $2.5 million in National Park Service (NPS) visitor enhancement funds to cover certain costs for the event, which will feature an Air Force flyover and tank postings on the National Mall.
The money is being taken from a fund created by the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA), under which funds were intended to be used only for projects that enhance visitor experiences on federally protected lands.
An annual NPS pass costs eighty dollars. Trump’s misuse of $2.5 million in recreation fees is equivalent to hijacking the money 31,250 American families paid to visit national parks.
In today’s letter, available at http://bit.ly/2L02sXg, Grijalva asks Bernhardt for a written justification for DOI’s use of FLREA dollars to support the partisan event and a detailed list of the projects that will lose funding due to this misappropriation. The letter follows a June 6 letter Grijalva sent with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, highlighting concerns that Trump’s reported plans would violate the understanding that Independence Day celebrations should be nonpartisan and apolitical.
Grijalva notes today that the administration has been particularly unresponsive to questions about where the money for Trump’s military rally is coming from. “It is concerning that when my staff called to confirm the intended use of FLREA funds, they were told no information would be made available until after the Fourth of July, presumably after these funds had already been spent to support the president’s rally,” he writes.
The Trump administration has been using FLREA money as a slush fund since the government shutdown earlier this year. The National Park Service used recreation enhancement funds to pay for normal operating expenses, hoping to limit damage to public property as NPS employees went unpaid and maintenance and security were curtailed.
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