Senators Charles Grassley and Rand Paul are looking into whether an environmental nonprofit misused taxpayer funds to cover "unallowable expenses" like lobbying and staff parties and did so with government auditors' approval, writes The Washington Post. The Colorado-based National Ecological Observatory Network, or NEON, has received tens of millions in grants from the National Science Foundation to build sites for collecting climate-change data.
In a letter to NEON earlier this month, the Republican lawmakers cited findings in a draft audit provided by a whistle-blower to Sen. Grassley's office. They raised concerns that the review conducted by the Defense Contract Audit Agency indicated a "widespread" problem with foundation grantees' spending.
The expenses questioned by the senators was classified by NEON as a "management fee" and sanctioned by the foundation and the audit agency, the Post writes. James P. Collins, NEON's chairman, said the group has used grant money "in strict compliance with our understanding of the guidelines provided" and will cooperate with a request by the senators for records.