Taxpayer Rip-Off of the Week: $1 Million for the Griffith Observatory

The Department of Defense is charged with making sure American troops are well-equipped and well-trained to do their job. Given the urgency of its duties, one might have thought that even in this day of petty pork politics the Defense Department would manage to keep itself above the fray. Unfortunately, that is not the case. When it comes to wasteful pork spending, nothing is sacred, not even America’s troops. The 2006 Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 2863) doled out $1 million to the Griffith Observatory Planetarium in California.

According to its website, the Griffith Observatory has been “a major Los Angeles landmark since 1935,” visited by nearly 2 million people each year. Perched on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood, many tourists come to catch a glimpse of its panoramic views. A non-profit institution, owned and financed by the City of Los Angeles, the Observatory seeks to provide information on astronomy to the public.

Those eager to see what exactly their tax dollars are being spent on, however, are out of luck. The Observatory is currently closed while it undergoes its first major renovation and expansion, making good use, no doubt, of its Department of Defense dollars. Instead astronomical aficionados will have to settle for a visit to the Griffith Observatory Satellite, aptly referred to as the “Observatory in Exile.” The Griffith Observatory Satellite “features a public space with a modest display of astronomy exhibits, an innovative planetarium theater, a lecture/presentation/meeting area, and a telescope to view the moon and planets at night.”

Now, I have seen a lot of outrageous pork projects in my day, but this one takes the cake. Our troops are fighting overseas, and instead of putting money towards supporting them, Congress squanders our vital defense dollars on an observatory in Los Angeles. Talk about mixing up your priorities.