Monday, January 10, 2005

Luck of the Norwegians

In the post entitled H.R. 4812 Part 2 I identify the Norwegian Foundation as a recipient of a $1,000,000 grant. According to this WCCO, Minneapolis news story via the AP the Foundation didn't even request the grant. You just can't make this stuff up if you tried:


Minneapolis (AP)The massive $388 billion spending bill that Congress passed last month includes $1 million for the Norwegian American Foundation, inserted by Rep. Martin Sabo, D-Minn.

The foundation is based in Seattle, but the group has ties to Minnesotans of Norwegian descent such as former Vice President Walter Mondale.

The money, which will be used to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Norway's peaceful independence from Sweden in 1905, was among several items singled out by Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona as pork last month.

"What is the charter of the Norwegian American Foundation that they need $1 million of my taxpayers' money?" McCain asked.

The foundation's chief executive, Kim Nesselquist, said they learned about the gift from McCain's speech.

"We are pleased, but we did not know it was coming," Nesselquist said.

The Norwegian Embassy also found out about the money after McCain's speech.

"The embassy has not lobbied for this, by no means," Norwegian Ambassador Knut Vollebaek told the Star Tribune. "We do not interfere with the budget processes of other countries. But we are very grateful to Congressman Sabo."

Mondale, chairman of the foundation's Centennial Gift Committee, said he was glad the United States was doing something to help commemorate the centennial, which includes plans for a $100 million endowment fund to support cultural exchange programs.

"This is the first century of Norwegian independence, and there's a very close connection between the Norwegian people and the American people, and between our histories," Mondale said.

But he said he didn't play a part in securing the money.

"If I could take credit for it, I would," Mondale said.

Gary Gandrud, a Minneapolis attorney and member of the foundation's board, said that Norway made a 1976 bicentennial gift to the United States that helped create the Vineland Center, a training facility in Loretto, Minn., for people with disabilities.

"This is a gift to Norway," Gandrud said. "It's not a gift to a bunch of good old boys in Seattle or a gift to Torske Klubben," a Norwegian-American luncheon club.


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