Fact check: Did the US spend $300K to fund a clown school in Argentina?

DCNFDavid Sivak, DCNF

Republican Sen. Rand Paul claimed Saturday that the U.S. has spent around $300,000 to fund a clown school in Argentina.

“They spent $324,015 to pay for a clown school in Argentina,” Paul, from Kentucky, tweeted as part of his annual “Airing of Grievances” to highlight what he considers wasteful government spending.

Verdict: True

A U.S. agency provided foreign aid to a circus school for Argentinian youth.

Fact Check:

Paul releases a “waste report” each year that draws attention to federal dollars spent around the globe. The 2017 report includes tongue-in-cheek examples ranging from $100,000 to “teach farmers how to use Facebook” to $1.8 million to “remind Cambodian motorcyclists to wear a helmet.”

Paul highlighted one such example in a string of tweets Saturday: about $300,000 spent to fund a clown school in Argentina.

The school funding comes from the Inter-American Foundation (IAF), a U.S. agency that provides an unorthodox alternative to traditional foreign aid. IAF has awarded 5,100 grants worth more than $720 million since 1972 to “the most creative ideas for self-help” in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The grants for 2017 include technical assistance to Argentinian farmers, funding for a business learning center in Buenos Aires and micro-loans to poor garment workers looking to start a business.

Some grants are less conventional.

IAF began to fund Circo Social del Sur, an Argentinian school that uses “circus arts to teach other skills to children, teenagers and young adults in poor neighborhoods in Buenos Aires” in 2008. The school is not strictly a clown school, however, the organization attempts to lower youth unemployment by teaching children acrobatics, trapeze gymnastics and dance.

The Daily Caller News Foundation found a record of grants totaling about $285,000 from 2008 to 2012. This is just shy of the amount cited by Paul.

IAF is one small part of U.S. foreign aid and only awards grants worth under $400,000. Some of the largest foreign assistance comes from the Department of Defense, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Treasury Department.

The U.S. spent roughly $49 billion on foreign assistance in 2015, amounting to 1.3 percent of the total federal budget.

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