This time around, Rehberg set his sights a little lower down the educational ladder. On a tour of a Montana elementary school (where his sister is principal), Rehberg wanted to know quite a bit about how the school policies its government-subsidized lunch program. From the Billings Gazette:
Rehberg asked [his sister and school district official Brenda Koch] pointed questions about fraud and whether families ever dupe the free and reduced-price meal system.
Koch explained that each year, a random sample of families who sign up and qualify are audited by the district to make sure they meet the income guidelines.
On top of that, she said, the district is audited by the state every year on how its Title I dollars are spent.“I’d like to punish those systems that rip the taxpayers off,” Rehberg said during the visit, according to the Gazette.
Rehberg (who is expected to run against Democrat Jon Tester for his Senate seat in 2012) is the 23rd richest member of Congress. Tester's office didn't waste any time delaying their counterattack on him, either.
“Millionaire Congressman Dennis Rehberg went to an elementary school and demanded to know about fraud in the school lunch program for low income students,” Tester campaign manager Preston Elliott told TPM. “At the same time he’s voted to increase his own pay 5 times and to protect subsidies for oil companies. Well, Dennis, the fraud is you telling Montana families that you’re on their side.”
Reduced or free school lunch programs are about $1 billion total yearly for America. Montana has about 1 million people, or 1/310th of the country's population. Ballpark that out and that means the state's entire share of free lunch programs is roughly $3.25 million. Even if some ridiculously high number like 10% of that is fraud, Dennis here could foot the bill himself if he's that worried about it. If it's one percent, that's $32,500 or so. Write a check, big man. It's almost worth more to the state for Rehberg to pay the money than it is to prosecute anyone on school lunch fraud, for crying out loud.
The point is school lunch programs aren't the flood of fraud that Rehberg makes it out to be. Now oil subsidies on the other hand, well, I'm sure Montana taxpayers could save a lot more money by looking at that. Heck, if it's one percent, why the oil lobbyist money Montana's congressional delegation has been paid in your average year would more than cover that $32,500 fraud tab.
That'll buy a lot of little rectangular pizzas.