WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A Justice Department anti-human trafficking grant program is facing internal complaints, after two nonprofits were denied funding in favor of two less established groups whose applications were not recommended by career DOJ officials.
The awarding of more than $1 million total to the two groups, Hookers for Jesus in Nevada and the Lincoln Tubman Foundation in South Carolina, has triggered a whistleblower complaint filed by the Justice Department’s employee union to the department’s Inspector General.
An internal department memo seen by Reuters shows that as of September 12, two long-established nonprofits – the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach and Chicanos Por La Causa of Phoenix – were originally on the list of recommended grant winners after receiving high marks from outside contractors hired to review applications. The annual grants help nonprofits and local governments aid human trafficking victims.
Later that month, those two organizations were replaced as recommended recipients by Hookers for Jesus and the Lincoln Tubman Foundation, which both received lower rankings from the outside reviewers. The reason, a September 23 memo says, was an effort to “distribute funding across as many states as possible.”
The change was ultimately approved by Katharine Sullivan, head of the Office of Justice Programs, OJP, which awards the grants. Sullivan defended the process as proper. “Our funding decisions are based on a merit-based review system,” she said.
In a statement, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees local 2830 president Marilyn Moses said the grants call into question the department’s mission to serve the public. “Our employees take their … responsibility to the taxpayer very seriously,” she said.
Liberal commenters on social media slammed the DOJ’s actions.
A president who boasts of grabbing women by the genitalia, who is defended by @AlanDersh mired in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, and Attorney General Bill Barr who hands out federal money to “Hookers for Jesus.”
Anyone tired of the Country being run by a bunch of dirty old men?
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) February 11, 2020
“‘Hookers for Jesus?’ This is what Trump has done to both ‘Christianity’ and the ‘Department of Justice,'” tweeted one prominent liberal Twitter personality.
“Hookers for Jesus operates a safe house for female adult trafficking victims that, in 2010 and in 2018, maintained a policy of requiring guests to participate in religious activities.”
— Chrissy in the Dumbest Dystopia (@C_Stroop) February 10, 2020
Hookers for Jesus, which received $530,190 over three years, is run by a born-again Christian trafficking survivor who has lobbied against decriminalizing prostitution, a policy position aligning with many in the Republican Party.
Hookers for Jesus operates a safe house for female adult trafficking victims that, in 2010 and in 2018, maintained a policy of requiring guests to participate in religious activities, internal program manuals obtained by Reuters through public records requests show.
The Lincoln Tubman Foundation, awarded $549,345 over three years, was launched by the daughter of a prominent local Republican who supported President Donald Trump as a delegate at the 2016 convention and is close to South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch in Washington and Moncks Corner, South Carolina. Editing by Ronnie Greene. Pluralist contributed to this report.)