Ex-Censorship Czar Flores Heading Toward A Fall

WASHINGTON, D.C. - To some, it might seem like an inspiration: Give $500,000 to the World Golf Foundation to fight juvenile crime. After all, where can kids better learn sportsmanship and fair play than on a golf course? And who should know better the advantages of golf than one of its most avid players, J. Robert Flores, administrator of the Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)?

And why shouldn't he know? According to Scott Peterson, a former staffer at OJJDP who testified before Rep. Henry Waxman's House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform yesterday, Flores travels a lot - both nationally and worldwide - and wherever he goes, every day he "would find the best golf course in the area, and go and play it - on taxpayer money," according to a report on MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann." And when golf wasn't available, Flores would play tennis.

Of course, there might be a problem or two. For instance, out of 104 organizations seeking grant money from the OJJDP, the World Golf Foundation was ranked #47 in worthiness by Flores' staff, who deemed them "not recommended" to receive the grant. But that was before the foundation treated Flores to a round of golf at the Slammer and Squire golf course in St. Augustine, Florida - and waived the $159 in greens fees Flores should have paid. (He reimbursed the foundation for that cost on Wednesday.)

And it might not have hurt that the chairman of the golf foundation's "First Tee" program for inner city kids is former President George Herbert Walker Bush.

According to an article on the ABC News Website, "Congressional investigators reported that Flores and his chief of staff, Michelle DeKonty, met with a World Golf Foundation official in June 2007 and directed Justice Department officials to assist the group in submitting its grant application."

Flores himself testified that he chose winners of the 2007 National Juvenile Justice Program grants based on merit and the agency's priorities, but for some reason, the five most highly ranked applicants didn't get a dime of the $100 million in grant money Flores had to dole out.

The Best Friends Foundation, which runs "abstinence education" programs in public schools, received an even lower score (51) than the golf foundation, but was no slouch in the grant department either, gaining $1.1 million over three years. Flores, his wife and one of his "special assistants" attended a $500-a-plate fundraising event for the organization in April 2007, for which the Justice Department picked up the tab.

And it might not have hurt that the founder and president of Best Friends is Elayne Bennett, whose husband, Bill Bennett, served as Secretary of Education during the Reagan administration and as the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) under the first President Bush.

Two other winners were Victory Outreach, which describes itself as a church-oriented Christian ministry, and Urban Strategies LLC, a consulting firm, both run by Lisa Cummins, who had been previously employed by the White House Office for Faith Based Initiatives, according to an article posted on the YouthToday.org Website. The organizations' joint application scored a 41 with reviewers ... and was awarded $1.2 million over three years.

Now, one might ask, why would this example of governmental self-dealing, cronyism and incompetence be of interest to the adult entertainment community?

As AVN reported back in April of 2001, just after the current President Bush made the announcement that he was nominating Flores for the OJJDP job, Flores seemed like a strange choice for the position. After all, at that time, Flores' only qualifications seemed to be that he had once served as the Acting Deputy Chief of the Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, and later had gone on to become, until his appointment to the OJJDP, the Vice President and Senior Counsel for the National Law Center for Children and Families, then one of the nation's primary pro-censorship groups.

(By further "coincidence," the National Law Center's President at that time was Bruce Taylor, who went on to become Chief Counsel to the Department of Justice's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force until his more recent meritless appointment as an immigration judge - annual salary $115,000 - by DOJ religio-conservative cronies Monica Goodling and Kyle Sampson.)

But back to Flores ...

Among the programs that got passed over for OJJDP grant money were:

  • Vista, a San Diego-based program to help troubled teens deal with inner city violence (ranked #2 by OJJDP staffers), because it had the temerity to distribute condoms to the kids;
  • The Rape Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN), a Washington D.C. based advocacy group for victims of rape and sexual assault (ranked #14), because Flores suspected that RAINN might counsel rape victims on how to obtain abortions;
  • The National Partnership for Juvenile Services, which trains adult guards to deal with teens in custody (also ranked #2 by OJJDP staff in its category) - a primary function for the OJJDP since its core mission, since the Office's founding during the Carter administration, was to take a leading role in removing kids from adult jails, where they are sexually assaulted and at high risk for suicide; and
  • The Girl Scouts, which suffered a major cut in grant money for a program to serve girls whose mothers were in jail. Why? "Flores objected because the group had ties to Planned Parenthood," according to an article by Washington Post contributor Murray Waas.
It might be noted, as Waas further reported, that the OJJDP has long been a center for patronage and cronyism, beginning with Ronald Reagan's appointment of Al Regnery, who now heads his own (conservative) publishing house, as the Office's administrator. Regnery, according to Waas, resigned his office after it was charged that he too ignored staff recommendations for grant money, electing instead to give the funds to the late Jerry Falwell's Liberty College to devise a high-school course on the Constitution, and to Judith Reisman, the former songwriter for "Captain Kangaroo," to study pornographic cartoons for the Meese Commission. Reisman got $789,000 for her efforts, and Regnery diverted an unknown amount of additional funds from OJJDP to help the Meese Commission begin its anti-porn "work."

So ... is there a lesson to be learned from this, that pro-censorship activists are mainly in it for the money and power? We'll let the evidence speak for itself.