About 85 percent of funds awarded have been given to groups whose requests had a legislator's endorsement.
"I don't think that's fair. We could have gotten a senator or representative to support us, but we didn't know we had to," Qualls said.
Secretary of State Riley Darnell, who said he had been hounded by inquiries about the grants both from applicants and legislators, acknowledged that he was given discretion by the legislature to award the money.
But he said each of the sponsored requests had a "legislative history" and that he was "honor bound to try to deal" with the lawmakers' requests first. The money was appropriated following the formula of $100,000 per state representative and $300,000 per state senator.