By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 16, 2009 ( – $20 million in federal defense spending has been earmarked for an educational institute to honor and preserve the legacy of the late Senator Ted Kennedy.  Kennedy, a Catholic, was known by conservatives as one of the most formidable proponents of abortion and homosexuality on Capitol Hill.

Sen. Kennedy established the plan for the Edward Kennedy Institute in Massachusetts before he succumbed to brain cancer in August.  Similar to a presidential library, the Institute would house Kennedy's official documents from his 47 years in the Senate, and offer an educational focus on the role of the Senate in U.S. politics.

President Obama spoke at a fundraiser for the Institute on Wednesday, praising Kennedy as “indisputably one of the finest senators of this or any age.”  According to an Associated Press report, Congress had already granted $6 million for the Institute before Democrat Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Dan Inouye of Hawaii proposed the defense expenditure.

Critics of the $20 million earmark – drawn from a military account that funds training, fuel and ammunition for active U.S. troops – say that the Kennedy Institute has little relation to military spending.

“Whatever beneficial value civic education may have, it's hard to see why the Defense Department should pay for it,” Laura Peterson, a senior policy analyst at Washington's nonpartisan organization Taxpayers for Common Sense, told the Boston Globe.  “It would seem the location of this hefty earmark has more to do with the powerful position of its sponsor than (the Defense Department's) responsibility to educate elementary school children.”

A Kerry spokesman defended the spending as “a worthy investment” given Kennedy's service on the Armed Services Committee, and said it would be designed to showcase “one senator's ability to make a difference.”

Click here for's coverage of the Kennedy funeral scandal.