(Adam Andrzejewski, RealClear Wire) Among the over $16 billion worth of earmarks in the latest omnibus spending bill, New York senators made sure to allocate the New York Universal Hip Hop Museum a collective $5 million.
Earmarks are special funding mechanisms that allow federal lawmakers to designate money for local projects in their states or districts. Dubbed “the currency of corruption,” earmarks are often used on pet projects, but legislators voted to bring them back in 2021.
New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand each earmarked funds for the Hip Hop Museum in The Bronx, with Schumer earmarking $2 million for “educational programming” and the “purchase of equipment,” and Gillibrand earmarking $3 million for an “interior fit out.”
The Universal Hip Hop Museum “celebrates and preserves the history of local and global Hip Hop to inspire, empower, and promote understanding.” The website details exhibits, educational programs, collections of artifacts and an auditorium.
Examining its public tax filings reveals the organization is largely propped up by government grants. It reported on its tax form 990 that it only had about 10,000 visitors in 2020, and of its $216,00 in total revenue, about $50,000 came from government grants. Despite its tight budget and its overall deficit in 2020, it still found $30,000 to lobby the government.
The vagueness of the earmark descriptions make it difficult to know exactly what the money will be used for, but what’s for certain is this project could have and should have been funded locally. The state of New York and the city can and should invest in their communities and institutions, but taxpayers in Alaska shouldn’t be on the hook for a museum in the Bronx.