JANUARY 16, 2008
The Republican Congressman appointed by Mississippi’s governor to replace retiring Senator Trent Lott obtained millions of dollars in federal earmark money for a company whose executives donated large sums to his campaign.
Sworn into the U.S. Senate just a few weeks ago, Roger Wicker was relatively well-known as a big spender and earmark lover during his 14 years in the House of Representatives. Although this may hardly be his first questionable earmark, it certainly has drawn plenty of attention.
Not only did Senator Wicker appropriate $6 million for a defense contractor (Manassas-based Aurora Flight Science) operated by some of his biggest donors, the firm is represented by a well-connected lobbyist who happens to be Wicker’s former congressional chief of staff.
Aurora employees and executives basically funded most of Wicker’s 2006 House reelection campaign. In the past three years, as the firm pursued government contracts, contributions from the company’s executives to Wicker grew substantially. The lawmaker placed the controversial earmark in a defense appropriations bill that became law in late 2007.
Unfortunately, this is simply the latest of numerous examples of the well-documented ethical problems with earmarks, which allow the steering of federal funds to pet projects. In the last year alone, there were so many questionable earmarks that we cannot possibly mention them all although Judicial Watch has documented most of the big ones.
Highlights include; a California Republican Congressman, Jerry Lewis, under investigation for steering hundreds of millions of dollars in federal earmarks to family and friends in exchange for contributions to his campaign; Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha steering millions to companies not even located in his district because their lobbyists are close friends and Hillary Clinton’s infamous $1 million earmark for a campaign donor’s 1960s music festival museum.
Who could forget House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quietly inserting a last-minute provision into a recently approved multi billion-dollar redevelopment bill to benefit her husband financially? The veteran Northern California congresswoman sneaked the $25 million earmark to improve an area of San Francisco that includes several buildings owned by her husband.
The kicker of 2007 was House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who enthusiastically joined the pork-barrel spending cleanup bandwagon when Democrats took over Congress. It turns out that the Maryland legislator was among the year’s top 10 earmarkers, tucking nearly $100 million worth of pet projects into this year’s federal budget. Among his federal allocations was $450,000, inserted into a 2008 education spending bill, for a California-based foundation owned by a top campaign donor.
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