Saturday, December 29, 2007

Santa Was Generous With Our Tax Dollars in 2007

It definitely paid to be a Friend of a Congressman or woman this year. Among the items found under various trees this year thanks to your tax dollars and Congress:

Ohio-based paint company Sherwin Williams got $2 million to develop a super-paint that can kill toxic bacteria - something that may not even be feasible. Who was their Santa? None other than Ohio Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones.

A brand new fitness center in Columbia, South Carolina was built with help from $1 million in taxpayer money from Rep. James Clyburn of that state. And how did the center thank their Santa? Of course by hiring his daughter. I wonder which member of the Clyburn family is going to be looking for work at the First Tee golf program which has received $7.5 million in Clyburn-directed earmarks in the last four years and is still going strong. The First Tee program is set up "to impact the lives of young people by providing learning facilities and educational programs that promote character development and life-enhancing values through the game of golf.”

Alaska's Senator Ted Stevens is certainly no stranger to playing Santa with over $30 million in public funds. So it can't be surprising that he used federal money to create a group to market Alaskan seafood. And no further surprise that the group hired Stevens' son to lead it.

Back in Ohio, the "First Ladies Library" in Canton gets $1 million in our tax dollars each year thanks to Ohio representative Ralph Regula. And who started the library? Wife Mary, of course. But why stop there? The library's director is Regula's daughter.

And for the wine drinkers out there - never fear, money from all levels of the government are flooding in to help out the industry which someone seems to think is struggling (they probably haven't gone on those tours of wine country that now seem to exist in just about every state).

Thanks to Rep. Maurice Hinchey of New York, the Center for Grape Research is going to be built in ... which state? Well NY, of course! Why would you doubt the need for such a place? Simply because Congress has already spent $11 million in support of the wine industry and research? And $2.6 million for studying grapes in California. Oh, and the Center for Grape Research? What began as a $20 million project is now closing in on $30 million. Darn cheap, considering that they haven't even begun to build it.

The Seattle Times has a nice article on how earmarks can work between a new company and Congressional friends:

Not long after Nelson Ludlow and his wife started a technology business in Port Townsend with money scraped together from friends, family and retirement accounts, they spent precious dollars in an unlikely way:

They hired a lobbyist and started giving to a congressional campaign fund.

The lobbying paid off. Soon, an $800,000 earmark for the Ludlows was tucked into a 2003 spending bill, giving their tiny startup, Mobilisa, a no-bid contract to provide Internet service on Puget Sound ferries. . . .

Nelson Ludlow and his wife, Bonnie, have donated generously in the past five years, giving $11,500 to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and nearly $20,000 to U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton.

At the same time, the Ludlows have mastered the earmark game. Since 2003, Murray and Dicks have favored Mobilisa with at least nine earmarks worth $20.3 million.

Mobilisa had to split some of the earmark money with others and hasn't received all of it yet. But most of the company's $13 million to $14 million in revenues since 2003 have come from political pork, federal dollars for which Mobilisa didn't have to competitively bid. That puzzles competitors, who describe the company's technology as dated and overpriced.

Back in New York, Congresswoman Nita Lowery earmarked $10 million in the recent Iraq defense spending bill for rehab of Fort Slocum, a defunct military garrison. She is also sending $1 million to the Natural History Museum for "advanced research to further national security goals." The money is going for the study of pathogenicity (ability of one organism to cause disease in another). Interesting. But worthy of national security funding.

The University of Alabama must be glad to have Senator Richard Shelby among their alumni, since the Senator has gone out of his way to find $11 million to support building construction at the UA. I wonder if it'll be for a new building like 2004's "Shelby Hall," built by our tax dollars, but named for Shelby because he found the $35.5 million laying around on the Senate floor to pay for it.

Makes me wonder - would I be less pissed off about these wasted dollars if the new building was going to be named for me? I say that from now on if the earmarks are going through, they have to be named for ordinary citizens - names drawn from a lottery of some sort. I can see it now! And no, it wouldn't make me less pissed off. But it would be a nice photo op for our Christmas letters.


Blogger TomCat said...

LP, the rich got Santa. The poor got the Grinch.

2:53 PM  

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