Two California governors raided millions of dollars from a fund meant to fight terrorism and help families of victims of the 9/11 terror attacks.
The state initiated a license plate program to honor California victims of the attacks. Part of the money raised through the sale of the plates was to fund scholarships for the children of California residents who perished in the attacks, while the majority -- 85 percent -- was to help fund anti-terrorism efforts.
An investigation by the Associated Press found that of the $15 million raised by the program, only $80,000 went to scholarships.
Former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and current Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown used $3 million from the fund to plug holes in the state budget.
Although about 40 percent of the funds went to anti-terror training programs, millions went to budget items that have little to do with terrorism, such as workplace safety programs.
Moreover, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has been advertising the plates as helping the children of Sept. 11 victims even though the state stopped funding the scholarship program seven years ago. The specialty plate fund continues to take in $1.5 million a year.
Californians who lost loved ones in the attacks take the raid on the license plate fund as an affront to the memory of those who died.
"I can't believe that they would do that," said Candice Hoglan, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and bought a plate to commemorate her nephew, Mark Bingham.
"We're paying extra for the plate; we're making a point, and it means a lot to us," she said.
Bingham was killed on United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, and was one of the passengers who led the attempt to wrest control from the hijackers. His mother, Alice Hoagland, also was troubled by the program's apparent drift from its original purpose.
"I'm sorry that as we retreat in time from 9/11, we seem to be retreating in our resolve never to forget," she said in a telephone interview.