Jackson-Founded Group Settles Federal Claim

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Washington--Push-excel, the educational-motivation program for inner-city youths founded by the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, has agreed to pay the federal government $550,000 to settle a claim on more than $1 million in undocumented or improper expenditures of federal grants and contracts awarded in the 1970's and early 1980's.

The Justice Department announced that Push for Excellence, Inc., which Mr. Jackson founded in 1977, would pay an initial lump sum of $100,000, with the remainder to be paid in quarterly installments over a five-year period.

Push-excel received several4million in federal funds during the Carter Administration for projects in several cities.

But the government gave greater scrutiny to the program after 1980, and a push-excel official has said publicly that there has been "bad blood" between the program and the Reagan Administration.

Government auditors alleged that push-excel spent $1.1 million in violation of federal rules covering grants and contracts, using the federal money to pay employees not authorized for the programs and to cover travel expenses to conventions of Operation push, another of Mr. Jackson's programs.

In a statement released last8week, push-excel officials said their organization was "harassed" by government auditors "over a relatively small amount of disallowed claims," while other charitable organizations owing "many more millions" were not given the same scrutiny.

But push-excel officials determined that it was in the best interest of the program to settle the matter, the statement said. It also revealed that push-excel settled a disputed claim earlier this year with the Commerce Department for $38,000.

Mr. Jackson, who ran an unsuccessful but highly publicized campaign for the Democratic Presidenel10ltial nomination this year, no longer has any official role with push-excel, but he maintains an active interest in its success, said Tanya Mitchell, a Chicago-based press assistant to Mr. Jackson.

"That's his brainchild, and his interest is strong in anything he initiates," Ms. Mitchell said.

The Education and Labor departments, which, with the departments of Health and Human Services and Commerce, awarded the grants and contracts, referred the case to the Justice Department last year after a government-contracts review board denied a push-excel appeal. The push-excel statement said the initial $100,000 has been paid.--mw

Vol. 08, Issue 08

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