My colleagues at Watchdog.org and its state-level affiliates were the first in the nation to break the story that the $787 billion federal stimulus package "has doubled the size of the House of Representatives, according to Recovery.gov, which says that funds were distributed to 440 congressional districts that do not exist."

This includes Michigan. In its first installment of promised quarterly online reports, Recovery.gov lists 10 new districts to the Great Lake State's phalanx of 15 U.S. House seats (the center column, by the way, is the number of "new jobs" reported):

31st congressional district

0

$1,650,890

00 congressional district

26

$880,855

21st congressional district

17

$810,000

22nd congressional district

0

$722,192

16th congressional district

1.5

$465,898

28th congressional district

0

$418,186

23rd congressional district

2

$214,843

83rd congressional district

1

$156,820

60th congressional district

0

$56,328

37th congressional district

2

$11,933

Interestingly, a closer look at the stimulus awards in these non-existent congressional districts (see spreadsheet here) includes a community policing grant of $29,507 for the city of Midland, in congressional district "00." Midland is home to the Mackinac Center, whose office building is within a stone's throw of the district headquarters of Congressman Dave Camp. Rep. Camp serves Michigan's 4th Congressional district. Stimulus awards totaling more than $810,000 reported in the "21st" district were given to recipients in Mount Pleasant, Alma and Shepherd, cities which are also technically in Rep. Camp's district. (Incidentally, one person representing more than one congressional district may be a constitutionally questionable practice.)

"I guess we know why Michigan's unemployment rate is going up despite all these claims of new jobs. They're being created out of thin air," said Camp's spokesman, Sage Eastman.

Judging by some of the comments included by the local-level folks, inputting this information was not easy, many getting their reporting instructions at the last minute. Writes one seemingly frustrated award recipient in Rapid River:

"Impossible registration process.  Unable to reach help desk in less than 2 hours, registration process ultimately took an extra week to accomplish."

 And this entry from a recipient in Sand Lake:

"Process to register was not clear.  We did not even know we received ARRA funds until October 7, 2009.  Each registration area required 24 - 48 hours to activate.  This entire process is convoluted and should have been a seamless process.  Had some type of notification been sent when the funds were awarded the report would not have been late.  There were many technical error(s) with the registration process."

According to Watchdog.org, the federal recovery Web site operates on an $84 million budget. One would think such hefty price tag would ensure more accurate reporting. Instead, it says nearly $6.4 billion was used to "create or save" fewer than 30,000 jobs in these 440 "phantom" congressional districts. That's almost $225,000 per job.

Just don't tell us we need to fill those congressional seats.