OSU’s taxpayer-funded bunny massage makes waste list

Swedish foot massages for rabbits at Ohio State University cost taxpayers $387,000 and earned the No. 2 spot on a U.S. senator’s annual list of wasteful federal spending.

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn released his Wastebook 2014 last month. This is his last Wastebook as the Oklahoma Republican plans to retire after this year.

This year’s Wastebook claimed to include $25 billion in government waste. Topping the list is $19 million spent on bureaucrats placed on administrative leave while being investigated for possible wrongdoing. This includes employees of the Secret Service, IRS and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I have learned from these experiences that Washington will never change itself,” Coburn said. “But even if the politicians won’t stop stupid spending, taxpayers always have the last word.”

The pampered bunnies the book takes to task are part of OSU Sports Medicine Center research into massage as medical treatment. Scientists stimulate the rabbits’ hind legs, then measure their recovery time with and without massage.

Coburn’s office suggests that instead of researching the effect of exercise and massage on humans, “this study seems to have chased tax dollars down a rabbit hole.”

Caroline Whitacre, OSU vice president for research, said it’s not safe to do these tests on humans.

“By understanding how massage works biologically, Ohio State University researchers have the potential to determine how massage could be effective as a treatment for millions of people who suffer from debilitating conditions and disorders that affect their muscles,” she said.

“Considering the expected benefits of this research, it’s unfortunate that the science has been subjected to political scrutiny without a full understanding of the facts.”

Another Ohio example on Coburn’s list was more than $1.5 million a year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spends storing five years’ worth of excess documents at a Blue Ash facility. That waste was singled out in an EPA inspector general report.

No I-Team stories made the list this year, possibly because last year we questioned how much Coburn’s office spent assembling the list.

Last year, the Wastebook 2013 cited our investigation that uncovered the Pentagon’s decision to deliver new planes straight into storage in the Arizona desert because the Air Force had no use for them. The planes were 21 C-27J aircraft the Air Force had spent $567 million on since 2007.

The Wastebook 2012 included our findings that a program that provides free cellphones to low-income people had quietly grown to cover more than 1 million Ohioans, including tens of thousands of people thought to be abusing the program.

Other notable highlights from Wastebook 2014 include:

“With no one watching over the vast bureaucracy, the problem is not just what Washington isn’t doing, but what it is doing,” Coburn said. “Only someone with too much of someone else’s money and not enough accountability for how it was being spent could come up some of these projects.”