Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN Hunting

Letter To NRA Members Concerning The Pittman-Robertson Trust Fund

Wednesday, April 26, 2000

In March we sent our members a letter informing them of an issue involving the abuse of funds by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in its management of the Pittman-Robertson trust fund (see also the article in ILA`s "The Hunter`s Interest" webpage). In response to our letter, the Service received tens of thousands of postcards expressing outrage over the funding abuses. In reply, the Director posted a letter on the Service`s website claiming that what we had written was inaccurate. Our rebuttal is printed below along with a link to the Director`s letter. (The letter has been removed from the FWS web site so we no longer have a link to it.)

Dear NRA Member:

In March I mailed a letter to many NRA members concerning the scandal over how the Fish and Wildlife Service was managing the two cherished conservation trust funds that sportsmen helped to create. The trust funds are the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration fund (known as the Pittman-Robertson fund) and the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration fund (known as the Dingell-Johnson or Wallop-Breaux fund) both of which channel revenue collected from excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, and fishing tackle to state fish and wildlife agencies for conservation projects. By law, the Service is allowed to use a percentage of those funds to cover overhead costs incurred by its Federal Aid office in managing the two trust funds for the states.

Earlier, the March issue of our magazines carried an article entitled "Betrayal of Trust" that discussed the outcome of Congressional investigations over the Service`s use of these "administrative funds" and the Congressional hearings that were held by NRA Board Member, Congressman Don Young (R-AK) who also chairs the House Committee on Resources. Additionally, the NRA-ILA website under the title "In the Hunter`s Interest" has been carrying an updated story about this issue.

The Director of the Service wrote a letter dated April 10 and has posted it on the Service`s website in response to the tens of thousands of postcards you mailed expressing outrage over how the Service was using the money. There are numerous statements in that letter contradicting what I wrote to you. I have posted a link to Director Clark`s letter on our website along with this response.

The Director`s letter notes that the Government [sic] Accounting Office audited the Service`s Federal Aid program and found management shortcomings, but the letter objects to allegations that these funds were "diverted, abused, stolen, or that any illegality has occurred." What the letter does not tell you is how the General Accounting Office (GAO) characterized those shortcomings in testimony before Congress.

GAO labeled the Federal Aid program, in terms of basic accounting practices to track expenditures, "one of the worst managed programs we have ever encountered." GAO testified that in each area where administrative funds were used, there were problems. These included ineffective management oversight, inadequate internal controls, and inadequate policies and procedures. GAO told the House Resources Committee that these conditions spawned "a culture of permissive spending."

GAO uncovered a system by which the Service used administrative funds to support its own projects. Calling it a "shell game," GAO said that the Service charged the Federal Aid program a disproportionate amount to pay for Service-wide overhead costs (phones, electricity, rent) which freed up money in other departments to pay for projects that the Service could not fund with dollars Congress appropriated. The last bullet point of the Director`s letter states that no trust fund money was used to fund endangered species projects. However, GAO`s testimony revealed that some of the money freed up in this "shell game" was used for the reintroduction of the gray wolf.

The Director`s letter takes offense with my use of the term"slush fund" to describe the Director`s Conservation Fund and the Administrative Grant Program. While I would like to take credit for that term, it was first used by the Chairman and other members of the House Resources Committee to describe the Conservation Fund that was created without Congressional authorization. By law, funds in excess of administrative overhead are to be made available to the states. Early in the Clinton Administration, the then-Director created the Conservation Fund that used excess administrative funds to pay for conservation-related projects at the Director`s discretion, without input from the states or the sportsmen whose money it is.

Another program called the Administrative Grant Program was created in the previous administration to fund projects that would benefit the majority of the states, but was allowed to continue in spite of objections raised by organizations like the NRA over the legality of the program. Furthermore, the GAO testified that the administrative funds had been used to pay for relocation costs of employees, foreign travel, and other expenses not attributed to the cost of directly managing the funds as the law requires.

I leave it to you, the NRA member, to decide if GAO`s testimony before the House Resources Committee revealed spending by the Service that can accurately be characterized as diversion, abuse, theft and use of a "slush fund.".

Although the Director`s letter states that the Service is working diligently with its partners in the "States and conservation community to address these" shortcomings, no organization including the NRA was invited to the table when the Service organized a review team with the state wildlife agencies to look at reform measures. It was only after the NRA and other organizations like the National Wildlife Federation took issue with the closed-door approach of the Service that conservation organizations were invited by the states, not by the Service, to provide comments on the proposed reforms.

With respect to the issue of using the Administrative Grant Program to fund an animal rights project, the Service is correct in that no funds were awarded for such a purpose and no employee was fired for refusing to approve such a grant. What I did say, which is true, is that there were attempts by high ranking Service employees to pressure a Federal Aid employee to find such a proposal eligible for funding and upon refusal to do so, the employee was subjected to an adverse personnel action. The information in my letter to you was taken directly from the testimony presented to the House Resources Committee by the affected employee.

The Director`s letter is correct in stating that no Duck Stamp money was spent to buy a remote Pacific Island. What the letter does not say is that it was the Service`s intent to do so until Congressman John Dingell (D-Mich) stepped in to stop the wasteful expenditure of sportsmen`s dollars. That issue, including the letter Congressman Dingell sent to the Secretary of the Interior warning that "he and other Democrats" would "vigorously oppose" the purchase, was mentioned in my "Betrayal of Trust" article. Just because the proposal later failed, does not exonerate the Service from attempting to misuse the sportsmen`s funds.

The Director challenges the statement that millions of administrative fund dollars are unaccounted for because the amount diverted is "0." The GAO testified that there were millions of dollars that could not be accounted for. The Service`s response before the House Resources Committee was that the problem was not in money lost, but in the reconciliation of records due to a change in the accounting system. The Service advised Chairman Young that it would have the accounts reconciled by the end of the calendar year, 1999. To date, there has been no report from the Service that the remaining "lost" money has been reduced to "0."

The NRA is in agreement with the Director that the trust funds are highly successful and that it is important to address these issues with constructive solutions. At no time has the NRA suggested that its members withdraw their support from the trust funds or that the laws be abolished. Rather, we all recognize the tremendous support that these excise tax dollars have provided to wildlife and fish conservation at the state level. That is why we threw our support wholeheartedly behind Congressman Young`s bill, H.R. 3671, which makes reforms in the way the Service manages the trust funds.

The Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Programs Improvement Act passed the House April 5 by a vote of 423 to 2. The overwhelming bipartisan support for the bill validates the findings of GAO`s audit and other investigations and voices strong approval for reforms to be made through the legislative process. Unfortunately, the Department of the Interior (DOI) has offered only lukewarm support to the bill, despite the Director`s comment that the Service was working with Congressman Young on passing this legislation.

In summary, the Director`s letter indicates that the DOI and FWS remain in denial over many aspects of the issues raised by the Congressional hearings and the GAO audit and continue to defend the indefensible -- truly an ongoing "betrayal of trust."

Sincerely,

James Jay Baker
ILA Executive Director

(Link no longer active)U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Jamie Rappaport Clark`s Letter to NRA members

For more information see the article written by ILA Executive Director Jim Baker entitled "Betrayal of Trust"that appeared in the March issue of the American Hunter.

For copies of testimony from the hearings and for Committee press releases, log on to the House Resources Committeewebsite.

For a copy of the bill log onto the Library of Congress web site and search for H.R. 3671.

IN THIS ARTICLE
Hunting/Conservation
TRENDING NOW
First, Carry No Gun: Police Chief Gets Inhospitable Reception at Texas Medical Clinic

News  

Friday, August 18, 2017

First, Carry No Gun: Police Chief Gets Inhospitable Reception at Texas Medical Clinic

We recently reported on claims that “gun safety advocates” in the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have given a U.S. Marine Corps. veteran an untenable choice: custody of his grandson or his constitutional ...

Elizabeth Warren Urges Democrats to Champion Gun Control, Shut Down Debate

News  

Friday, August 18, 2017

Elizabeth Warren Urges Democrats to Champion Gun Control, Shut Down Debate

Just as many in the Democratic Party are seeking to moderate their message in order to once again compete as a national political party, some high-profile Democrats are urging the party to lurch further left ...

Oregon: Governor Signs Anti-Gun Bill into Law

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Oregon: Governor Signs Anti-Gun Bill into Law

Yesterday, Governor Kate Brown signed Senate Bill 719A.  Based on a California law enacted in 2014, SB 719A will create a so-called “Extreme Risk Protection Order” (ERPO) that could be obtained by a law enforcement ...

California: Ruling in NRA/CRPA Lawsuit Reigns in DOJ’s Misuse of DROS Fees

Friday, August 18, 2017

California: Ruling in NRA/CRPA Lawsuit Reigns in DOJ’s Misuse of DROS Fees

A California state court issued an important ruling in the NRA and CRPA supported case of Gentry v. Becerra, holding DOJ accountable for its historical mismanagement and misuse of DROS (dealer record of sale) account funds.

American Bar Association Continues to Attack Gun Owners, Due Process

News  

Second Amendment  

Friday, August 18, 2017

American Bar Association Continues to Attack Gun Owners, Due Process

The 2016 compilation of legislative policies of the ABA includes a raft of gun control proposals. In it, the ABA advocates for outmoded gun control measures, such as limits on the sale and possession of ...

Washington: Department of Labor & Industries Targeting Shooting Ranges

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Washington: Department of Labor & Industries Targeting Shooting Ranges

At the request of Public Health, Seattle & King County, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries has released a “first draft” of a new statewide regulatory scheme targeting lead and lead exposure in the workplace. ...

Arizona Supreme Court Rebuffs Tucson’s Illegal Destruction of Firearms

News  

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Arizona Supreme Court Rebuffs Tucson’s Illegal Destruction of Firearms

On Thursday, the Arizona Supreme Court unanimously held that the state was within its authority to prohibit cities and counties from routinely destroying firearms obtained through forfeiture or as unclaimed property. State law holds that ...

Trump Administration Ends Another Obama-era Anti-Gun Policy

News  

Friday, August 18, 2017

Trump Administration Ends Another Obama-era Anti-Gun Policy

Justice Department to End ‘Operation Choke Point’

Stossel Report Reinforces Urgent Need for Congressional Action

Second Amendment  

Gun Laws  

News  

Friday, August 11, 2017

Stossel Report Reinforces Urgent Need for Congressional Action

Award-winning journalist John Stossel published a report this week that provides a timely reminder that – nearly a decade after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller – law abiding gun ...

California: 2017 Legislative Session Reconvenes on Monday

Thursday, August 17, 2017

California: 2017 Legislative Session Reconvenes on Monday

On Monday, August 21, the California Legislature will reconvene from Summer recess.  Below is the status on the firearm-related bills still moving through the legislative process.  Please send an email to your state legislators respectfully urging ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.