As the House weighs legislation that would halt the controversial Frank Gehry plan for the Eisenhower Memorial, the chairman of the subcommittee with oversight over the project has requested documents showing how $63 million Congress already committed to the project has been spent.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, wants the cash accounted for before legislators fork over another $51 million of taxpayer money for the upcoming fiscal year.
"Right now, we don't know what has been done, what has been spent," Bishop told The Washington Examiner. He leads the House Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation.
"It seems like every time somebody new talks to me about this issue they are amazed about the lack of transparency about where the money has gone," Bishop said Friday.
The Eisenhower Memorial, designed by world-renowned architect Gehry, is estimated to cost $142 million -- a figure that opponents, including members of the Eisenhower family, expect to climb should the project get under way.
Bishop sent letters to the National Park Service, the General Services Administration and the Eisenhower Memorial Commission asking for information about how the funds were being spent.
A spokeswoman for the memorial commission declined to comment for this story, saying that the commission was focused on preparing a response within the 15-day deadline imposed by Congress.
Bishop said that of the $63 million, he believed about $20 million of it had not been committed -- a sum, Bishop said, some architects might be able to use to complete a smaller-scale memorial.
The Eisenhower Memorial Commission has requested another $51 million for fiscal 2014 so that construction, which has not started, can begin at the base of Capitol Hill on the monument to the former World War II general and two-term president.
"We hope with the kind of spotlight that we're turning on this issue, there's recognition that the leadership of Congress is concerned about this issue and they want some answers before we go forward," said Bishop, who has been joined in requesting the information by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.
Susan Eisenhower, granddaughter of Dwight D. Eisenhower, said she spoke on behalf of her family which opposes the design.
"We support Congressman Bishop's effort to get a full accounting -- and I would also add to that that we don't see any way forward since this memorial design does not have consensus support," Eisenhower said.
Gehry has proposed an enormous undertaking. At its center the design features 80-foot-high metal tapestries.
Critics have called the design unsafe, citing concerns in an official report that said snow and ice falling off the tapestries could injure onlookers and that welding suspending the metal tapestries could fail. Opponents have also said that the outsize design is not in touch with the former president's personality.
Gehry, an architect at the top of his profession, has also received some criticism.
"I want a memorial to Eisenhower, not a memorial to an architect whose theme just happens to be Eisenhower," Bishop said.
The memorial's opponents also highlight the unusual process undertaken to select the monument. Instead of an open process where anyone could submit a design, plans were solicited from architecture firms before Gehry's final design was chosen.