More than half a million dollars for a film about Mickey Mouse, $5,000 to study Hello Kitty, and more than $50,000 getting birds drunk are just a few examples of taxpayer-funded projects exposed by Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) in his latest book on government waste.
The Washington Free Beacon exclusively obtained a copy of McCain’s fourth edition of America's Most Wasted, set for public release Wednesday. The report chronicles more than $27 billion in wasteful spending that ranges from billions in handouts to Hollywood, horseracing, and the wind industry, to $15,000 for a movie about hula dancing.
A main target for McCain was the National Science Foundation, which spent $872,164 to study how children cross the street. The results found that children tend to take greater risks when crossing the street compared to adults, "something generations of American parents already knew," the report said.
Another project by the agency cost $10,960 to study old male hunting dogs in Nicaragua. The results found that older dogs were more successful hunters than younger dogs and that "dogs that are not good hunters are almost never taken on excursions."
The National Science Foundation was not the only government agency to engage in questionable research. The Department of Education shelled out $5,000 to study Japanese cartoon character Hello Kitty.
The funding went towards research for a book by Christine R. Yano, an anthropologist, called Pink Globalization: Hello Kitty’s Trek Across the Pacific. Yano attributed Hello Kitty’s popularity to the "blankness of her design."
"You can give her a guitar, you can put her on stage, you can portray her as-is," she said. "That blankness gives her an appeal to so many types of people."
The National Institutes of Health spent $51,326 to see whether birds sing differently when they are wasted.
"The researchers gave Zebra finches grape juice spiked with ethanol and examined whether drinking the spiked juice altered the birds’ ability to sing in tune," the report said.
"According to the study ‘when allowed access, finches readily drink alcohol, increase their blood ethanol concentrations (BEC) significantly, and sing a song with altered acoustic structure,’" it said.
The Pentagon spent $1,098,805 to "examine doggy brains" using MRIs. The researcher Gregory Berns admitted that scientific reaction to his work was "kind of dismissive" and argued, "Dogs are people, too."
The Department of Agriculture spent $93,000 to "test the french fry potential of certain potatoes."
Other examples of frivolous spending included $25,000 for "garbage art in Maine." The funding from the National Endowment for the Arts went toward Something Rotten, an artist residency program that takes local artists to landfills so they can make pieces out of trash.
The Department of Education spent more than $2.2 million to send text messages that remind high school students to enroll in college classes. The State Department has spent $482,218 on chocolate since 2013. The National Endowment of the Arts spent $20,000 for a basket-weaving seminar.
The Army National Guard placed a $13,495 order for bubble soccer for "team building" just days after drill weekends were canceled in Wisconsin to address budget shortfalls.
NASA spent $12,000 to develop a Japanese comic book series about climate.
Several projects first uncovered by the Free Beacon were featured in the report, including a National Institutes of Health study of why lesbians are obese, which has now surpassed $3.5 million.
"While obesity is a serious health problem, one could question why the NIH would spend $3.5 million on this study, and what value there is for to the federal government to figure out that gay men have a ‘greater desire for toned muscles’ than straight men; that ‘there [are] no sexual orientation differences in odds of being muscle-concerned’; that lesbians have lower ‘athletic-self-esteem’; and that all males, regardless of sexual orientation, should be ‘screen[ed] for concerns and behaviors related to leanness and muscularity,’" the report said.
The report also included the Free Beacon’s reporting on the National Science Foundation spending $125,000 studying sexist adjectives and $15,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency to create a device that monitors how long hotel guests spend in the shower.
Failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs were also documented, including the VA Aurora hospital, considered by some to be the "most expensive hospital in the world." The hospital is still not complete five years after breaking ground and is now expected to cost $1.7 billion.
The department also spent more than $6.3 million for artwork at a California VA, including a $483,000 rock sculpture and $285,000 for a light-up display of Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt quotes in Morse code in the parking garage.
The National Endowment for the Humanities spent $600,000 to fund a movie about Mickey Mouse. The film is based on the life and work of Walt Disney, despite his company being the most recognizable and lucrative in the world.
The report extends upon McCain’s work with fellow Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake exposing the Pentagon’s "paid patriotism" to the NFL and a report that detailed $1.1 billion in questionable government spending.
"I am grateful for the efforts of my colleagues Senators Flake, Coats, Lankford, and Toomey who have worked tirelessly to uncover egregious pork in Washington," McCain said. "It is my hope that others in Congress will join our oversight efforts. If Washington refuses to reign in spending, future generations will bear the burden for Washington’s spending addiction."