May 302012
California State Seal2

Sometime after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, California lawmakers introduced memorial license plates with the words, “We Will Never Forget.” The idea, no doubt fueled by patriotism, was to use the fees generated by the license plate sales to fund scholarships for the children of California victims of the attack and also to bolster law enforcement’s anti-terrorism efforts within the state.

Unfortunately, that’s not how things played out. Here are some low-lights that the Associated Press uncovered:

The California Department of Motor Vehicles promotes the program with the slogan, “Be A Patriot.” Granted, it’s not real creative but hey, it’s the DMV. The specialty plates cost $50 plus a $40 annual renewal fee, and have raised, to the credit of the California citizenry, some $15 million for the California Memorial Scholarship Program. Except, and this is where this tale turns ugly, California stopped the scholarship program seven years ago. Surprise.

Further, the AP found that of the funds raised until the program ended, some $5.5 million, only 1.5% actually went to children of victims. That’s a pathetic $21,281. Spread that sad amount amongst who knows how many kids and it looks even worse.

So, thousands of patriotic citizens in California, for love of country, state and fellow Americans, have been hood-winked by their government. The scholarship program was abandoned in 2005, but the advertising for it was not (only after the story broke May 25th, did the DMV alter their advertising). In essence, the state government has being lying to it’s citizens for seven years. Isn’t that — advertising a product or service that doesn’t exist — against the law? If a business advertises a product or service and then fails to deliver the goods, or worse, has no intention of delivering the goods, isn’t that fraud? No less scandalous is the sad fact that even when it was a valid program, less than 2% of the money went to victims’ families. It’s shameful.

You may be asking yourself, where has the money been going since the scholarship program was terminated? The Associated Press is still sorting it out but their story does include references to consistent misappropriation of funds. The California Department of Food and Agriculture, apparently now in the law enforcement game, got some cash. They spent $18,163 for furniture in 2006 and $11,492 for auto inspections in 2009. How exactly does a recliner, couch or car inspections fight terrorism?

Current Gov. Jerry Brown and his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, got some ink, too. It seems both dipped into the patriotic piggy bank and spent money on things with little relation to terrorism. Go figure.

It’s embarrassing, isn’t it? Check that, it’s nauseating.

America is supposed to be better than this. So for lying to its’ citizens and violating a noble cause with seedy bureaucracy, the government of California deserves the stink bucket.

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