The trust’s board includes several Democratic donors who have cumulatively given hundreds of thousands of dollars to pro-Pelosi efforts over the years.
Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for Pelosi, told Fox News in a Thursday phone call that the park predates the current board members and that the Presidio national park has been a legislative hallmark of the speaker’s congressional career.
Hammill also blasted the idea that the donors being on the board had anything to do with the proposal for the park to receive $200 million in taxpayer dollars, calling it a “made-up silly thing out of disinformation” and noting Pelosi is “known for preserving the Presidio” in her life in public service.
Another Pelosi spokesperson told Fox News in an email that Pelosi has “worked with a broad coalition of community, business and civic leaders to preserve the Presidio” after the U.S. Army closed the former military installation in 1994.
The spokesperson also touched on the “bipartisan law creating the Presidio Trust” from the 1990s and said that the park is facing a “$400 million backlog in deferred maintenance needs, including replacing and upgrading the aged utilities inherited from the Army.”
“Funding to help cover this massive backlog was unfortunately left out of the Great American Outdoors Act, which came over from the Republican Senate,” the spokesperson said. “This law provided funding for similar deferred maintenance needs at other units of the national park system.”
Additionally, Pelosi’s spokesperson told Fox News that the $200 million carve-out was recommended: “to bolster the Presidio Trust, which can be used to immediately tackle deferred maintenance needs as well as continue the rehabilitation of the remaining historic buildings.”
“These costs are necessary for the park’s upkeep,” the spokesperson said. “In contrast, House Republicans have repeatedly voted to gut funding for public lands and public spaces, as recently as today: voting in the same markup to cut funding for public lands and public spaces from other amendments.”
Several of the park board members have given to Pelosi’s campaign, with Lynne Benioff, the chair of the trust, having given Pelosi almost $80,000 in cumulative campaign and PAC donations, according to FEC filings reviewed by Fox News.
Over $69,000 of Benioff’s donations have gone to the Nancy Pelosi Victory Fund and $10,400 has gone to Pelosi’s campaign.
Additionally, George Marcus — another trust board member — has given Democrat campaigns and candidates a total of $33.6 million, with a cumulative $723,000 going specifically to Pelosi’s campaign and the Nancy Pelosi Victory Fund.
Marcus gave Pelosi’s campaign $50,700 going back to 1988 and has donated a lifetime total of $672,300 to the Nancy Pelosi Victory Fund.
Furthermore, a former board member who left in 2015, John Keker, was reported in 2010 as Pelosi’s largest individual donor, and the trust’s first employeeand former executive director Craig Middleton formerly worked as the speaker’s press secretary and appropriations staffer.
Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) executive director Kendra Arnold told Fox News in a Thursday email that lawmakers cherry-picking projects can lead to “corruption” on the taxpayer’s dime.
Arnold also said that Pelosi’s political relationship with board members shoots up some red flags.
“As with all earmarks, allowing members of Congress to pick and choose specific projects is a clear recipe for corruption and self-dealing at the taxpayer’s expense,” Arnold said. “Additionally, earmarks make it too easy to create a situation where the merit of the project doesn’t matter.”
“Given the relationships and connections in this case, it certainly raises concerns,” she added.
Republicans on the Hill have been critical of the Democrats’ $200 million earmark for Pelosi’s park, with Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo., ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, telling Fox News in a Thursday email that Pelosi “is taking money from taxpayers to reward her rich friends in San Francisco.”
“The Democrats’ reckless spending spree will waste 200 million taxpayer dollars on a park exclusively in Pelosi’s wealthy home district,” Barrasso said. “By law, the park is supposed to be financially self-sufficient. Many of the individuals who run this park are major political donors to Pelosi and other Democrats.”
“Now Nancy Pelosi is insisting on dishing out hundreds of millions of dollars to her favorite park that’s run by her biggest donors,” the Wyoming senator continued. “This isn’t building back better. It’s Pelosi’s pork park.”