Media Truth

Government Waste Not 'Unusual' in Southwest Virginia

by Lewis Loflin

It's interesting the Virginia Department of Transportation, along with the entire state, are in another budget crisis. I'd remind them of the following. To quote A Tale of Two Trust Funds by John Tierney New York Times May 14, 2005:
Don't be discouraged by this week's report that traffic congestion is worse than ever across America. Relief is on the way from Congress, thanks to one of the designated 3,800 "high-priority projects" in the new highway bill. It's a new transit system guaranteed to free you from bumper-to-bumper traffic, as long as you have a horse.

This addition to the nation's transportation infrastructure is the brainchild of Representative Rick Boucher, a Democrat from the southwestern Virginia mountains that Daniel Boone traversed on the way to Kentucky. Mr. Boucher secured $750,000 of highway money for the "construction of horse trails and assorted facilities" in Jefferson National Forest.

When I expressed doubts to Mr. Boucher that these new horse trails would ease traffic on the roads, he replied, "That's fair to say." He didn't expect any commuters to use them. But he insisted this really wasn't an unusual use of money from the highway trust fund, and he had a point...

The entire article here.

July 8, 2008 Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today released its preliminary analysis of the House version of the Fiscal 2009 Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) Appropriations Act. (their website is CAGW has documented 1,123 projects at a cost of $409.8 million. The following are among the most egregious examples of pork-barreling in the bill:

$1,350,000 for planetarium costs: $900,000 by House appropriator Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), and Reps. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and Danny Davis (D-Ill.) for planetarium equipment; $250,000 by House appropriator Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) for the Lakeview Museum Planetarium; and $200,000 by CJS Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) for the County College of Morris Planetarium.

That was the Chicago Mob whose school systems are a wreck. And our own Rick Boucher:

$400,000 by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) for horseshoe crab research at Virginia Tech. According to a March 28, 2008 Richmond Times Dispatch article, "The horseshoe crab's blood is useful in intravenous medications and has cancer-fighting properties." This is a crabby case of corporate welfare; companies that need the research should pay for it.

In Congress, pork can be important prize according to the Roanoke Times June 8, 2008. They say,

...But one person's pork is another's prize. And while Southwest Virginia's congressmen acknowledge flaws in the process, they also consider the earmarks directed to their districts important -- perhaps more important than an executive branch bureaucrat in Washington might realize.

"I frankly think the members of Congress are far better situated to understand the priorities of their districts," said Boucher, who has served in the House of Representatives since 1983.

Boucher has steered federal money to his district for major flood control and infrastructure projects, university research programs, targeted economic development, health care and public-safety initiatives. Many of his spending requests originate with constituents who attend town hall meetings in his district, he said. He makes all of his spending requests public, and said he does not seek earmarks "for any kind of private, for-profit entity."

He makes them public? Only after he has gotten the money. He has never held a town hall anything on the Bristol Trainstation, etc. A lot of money does go to universities like Virginia Tech, which produces nothing he is willing to prove. It's often a conduit for obtaining other government grants by supplying "matching funds." And what "town hall" meeting did they discuss $750,000 for horse trails?

This article concerns the three veteran congressmen who represent Southwest Virginia -- Republicans Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke County and Virgil Goode of Rocky Mount, and Democrat Rick Boucher of Abingdon. (Goode lost his re-election bid in 2008 was first elected in 1996.) To further quote,

But Goode isn't enamored of earmarks. "I'm for doing away with them all, as long as it applies across the board to everyone, including presidential earmarks and having a broader definition of what an earmark is...My opponents ran against me and said, 'You weren't effective.' If you're effective, they run against you and say you shouldn't get earmarks for your district. It's a Catch-22."
Like his colleagues, Goodlatte has also requested earmarks for Virginia Tech-related projects, including one with Boucher and U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, R-Fairfax County, for a research center that assists farmers in designing new crops and finding uses for agricultural wastes. "They're a good research school, and research funding is something earmarks are often used for," Goodlatte said of Tech.

Tech pulled in more than $7 million in noncompetitive grants through congressional earmarks -- more than any Virginia university -- and another $5 million that it shares with other schools...

Ralph Byers (Tech's director of government relations) said Tech has "a rigorous process" for screening requests for federal research dollars and has forged good relationships with the congressional delegation and the government agencies involved in funding the projects. "We don't see this as welfare," Byers said. "We see this as an opportunity to do something for the agency involved."