Drudge vs. USDA: Recession Spending Showdown

We noted with glee the selection of this morning’s prized top-of-the-page links on Drudge. They managed to sift through the recent listings of funded stimulus projects, and highlighted a few which, it’s fair to say, were not described well.

Here are some of the links that Drudge prominently featured:




As you’ll see if you click on any of those links, the information in the description field is limited to what Drudge cites in single quotes. That said, we chalked that up to bureaucratic inefficiency (no one took the time to make sure that each award was properly described), but didn’t think that the government actually paid $1.1 million for a 2 pound ham.

Just to be sure, however, we reached out to some of the companies cited on Drudge.

Cheesy Does It

The “Mozzarella Cheese” money went to Micelli’s Dairy in Cleveland. Turns out their $1.56 million dollar award was granted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and will be used to supply American food banks with 837,936 pound of mozzarella cheese. They used the money to buy 9 million pounds of milk from local dairy farmers, and they hired 15 people to produce the cheese.

“It’s a multiplier effect,” said Brad West, Micelli’s government contracting officer. “Most of [the workers] are college kids, working for the summer,” adding that many of them have arranged to continue to work part-time once classes begin in the fall.

West says that Micelli’s has done quite a few contracts for the U.S.D.A., supplying school and government buildings with bulk cheese. This is the first time, however, that their cheese is being packaged in one pound balls, bound directly for consumers.

Hamming It Up

The U.S.D.A. was sufficiently peeved by the Drudge postings that they put out a press release defending their grant awards:

“Press reports suggesting that the Recovery Act spent $1.191 million to buy "2 pounds of ham" are wrong. In fact, the contract in question purchased 760,000 pounds of ham for $1.191 million, at a cost of approximately $1.50 per pound.”

They also noted that the cheese and ham were bound for “food banks, soup kitchens and food pantries that provide assistance to people who otherwise do not have access to food.”

Drudge then fired back, insinuating that at $1.50 per pound, the government was paying too much for ham. He posted a link to a Food Lion where you can get ham for $.79 per pound. I’d kind of like to see Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack walk into a Food Lion and order 760,000 pounds of ham.

I think this debate could be a sign of the end times.

Show Us the Door

The only open question I have about the projects Drudge mentions is the $1.44 million door replacement job. That award went to AFCO, an American-Indian owned technology company in San Antonio, Tex. I called the company up to try to find out if they really got that much money to replace one door. When I told the AFCO representative who answered the phone what I was looking for, she said they don’t give out company information and hung up on me. So I called back, and she hung up on me again. So I called back again, and she hung up on me again. Then I emailed everyone listed on the company web site, and none of them have gotten back to me.

I thought that this grant reward was another error – that they were probably putting in 20 or 30 doors and they were all made of Baccarat crystal – a completely reasonable explanation But since they’ve decided to dodge me so overtly, I’m beginning to think that maybe there’s some truth to the Drudge post, in which case I suppose congratulations are in order for AFCO. Good work on scoring a million and a half bucks for a door!

The other strange thing about this item is that the government agency listed as the grantor is called nothing more than “57.” This sounds like it might have something to do with aliens, which I suppose could explain why the door is so expensive.

UPDATE: Turns out that this door isn't such a small deal after all. The Department of Defense put out a press release explaining that it's a giant door to a hangar that houses B-1 bombers at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas. And Recovery.gov mislabled the price. It's $246,100, not $1.44 million. So, mystery solved, and I guess since this was a DoD project, the reason why AFCO would not speak has to do with military top secret protocols... like, they could tell me, but then they'd have to kill me. And I don't want to die over a door. Still, they didn't have to hang up on me. That wasn't nice, even if there giant door is legit.


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