The Center for Public Integrity has uncovered the grab for stimulus funds by Senators and Congressmen who are campaigning on opposing the 2009 stimulus spending package and earmarks. This from an article by John Solomon and Aaron Mehta in today’s Washington Post:
The behind-the-scenes grab for stimulus dollars is a particularly sensitive topic for Republicans, who have wooed the tea party movement with an incessant attack on stimulus spending as wasteful and ineffective. The House GOP's Pledge to America campaign manifesto promises to rescind all unspent stimulus dollars if Republicans regain control of Congress in the November elections.You can read the entire article here.
But several of the architects of the GOP's anti-stimulus campaign tried to secure money from the program, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), a member of the Republican House leadership who helped craft the Pledge to America.
At least one of McConnell's requested projects was accepted, with $20 million being earmarked from the Transportation Department for a bridge replacement between Milton, Ky., and Madison, Ind.
All told, five members of the GOP's leadership - McConnell, Pence, Sessions, Sen. Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) - sent letters requesting that funds be funneled to more than a dozen projects. Even McCain, who made running against pork a key plank of his 2008 presidential campaign, sent a letter offering his "conditional support" for Energy Department funds for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The grant was not awarded. McCain also wrote three letters endorsing stimulus applications pending at the Commerce Department.
Such letters dismay tea party activists and conservative advocacy groups such as Americans for Tax Reform, which see a touch of hypocrisy among candidates they thought were conservative champions of spending cuts.
"The GOP should not be taking this money and spending it regardless of where it came from," said Rob Gaudet, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots. "They should be fighting against it with every fiber of their elected beings."
Over the past year, isolated reports of lawmakers and governors seeking funds from a single agency handing out stimulus money have surfaced in the news media. Using the Freedom of Information Act, the Center for Public Integrity collected nearly 2,000 requests from lawmakers in both parties to secure funding from the $814 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
When the bill was signed into law in February 2009, President Obama boasted that it was free of earmarks, which have been used by lawmakers for years to steer federal money to their pet projects.
"We're not having earmarks in the recovery package, period," the president said, promising that the process would create a "new higher standard of accountability, transparency and oversight."
While the legislation went through Congress without any traditional earmarks, lawmakers - including some Democratic leaders - went to work afterward, cajoling agencies to secure stimulus money for their favored projects for constituents and donors.