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Update – Senator Tom Coburn Vs. the 501st Legion

Star Wars - Darth Vader

Star Wars – Darth Vader (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Each year Senator Tom Coburn produces a book of wasteful government spending. This year the Oklahoma Senator’s list featured a surprise, the 501st Legion. Yes the cosplayers who dress up as Star Wars characters and help raise money for worthy causes is mentioned in this year’s list. Don’t believe me? You can check it out on page 84 #52.

Coburn’s listing says:

52) Return of the Jedi – (MA) $365
Not so long ago in a library not so far, far away…

The struggle against the evil galactic empire and the dark side of the Force has come to Earth. Accompanied by Stormtroopers, Darth Vader was among the special guests at a federally funded Star Wars fan event that included a history of Star Wars, trivia, and “name that character” games. Those attending were encouraged to bring “their Star Wars toys and collectibles for show and tell as well as to dress as their favorite character.” On the library’s social networking website, it noted after the trivia contest, “the group played with action figures, did puzzles and took photo ops with their favorite characters.”

The Star Wars Day event, held at the Abington Public Library in Massachusetts, was paid for with $365 in federal funds, part of an $11,700 grant provided by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The Star Wars franchise has grossed over $4.5 billion over the past 35 years, so taxpayers may wonder why the government is subsidizing fan events for one of the most popular and successful movie series in the universe.

But here’s the issue, the 501st Legion isn’t some official group funded by LucasFilm. The group is a charity fan organization. From their website:

From Article I of our Legion Charter:

“…The Legion is an all-volunteer organization formed for the express purpose of bringing together costume enthusiasts under a collective identity within which to operate. The Legion seeks to promote interest in Star Wars through the building and wearing of quality costumes, and to facilitate the use of these costumes for Star Wars-related events as well as contributions to the local community through costumed charity and volunteer work…”

To Promote Interest in Star Wars
While a growing number of people are experiencing a reawakening of their Star Wars fandom, new generations are seeking ways to celebrate their passion for George Lucas’s modern mythology. The 501st Legion brings these fans together, reinforcing the enduring longevity of the Star Wars saga.

To Facilitate the Use of Costumes
Some fans are content to collect action figures…other fans want to be action figures. Nothing professes your passion quite like building your own detailed costume replica of a classic Star Wars villain, and there’s nothing quite like the feeling that comes from bringing the characters of Star Wars into the real world and sharing the magic with others.

To Contribute
While our organization was founded to simply provide a collective identity for costuming fans with similar interests, the 501st is proud to put its resources to good use through fundraising, charity work, and volunteerism. Read more about our charity work here.

Take a closer look at their page about their charity work. The wording Senator Coburn uses in his listing is intellectually dishonest, not properly explaining what the money was used for and also using that LucasFilm statistic as a red herring.

So, really that’s $365 for an event to get kids to come to a library with a Star Wars theme event. Getting kids excited about reading? I guess Senator Coburn doesn’t support that. Too bad since his state got a D in 2011 for the K-12 achievement index, placing the state in 35th place.

Update: Want to know how “evil” the 501st Legion is? Read this article.