Article: New Transportation Secretary Named Porker of the Month
After only a week in office, US Secretary of Transportation Ray H. LaHood is already receiving criticism for his spending habits. The taxpayer advocacy group Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named LaHood its "January 2009 Porker of the Month" in light of LaHood's recent voting record.
"In his new position, Secretary LaHood will preside over the distribution of tens of billions of tax dollars for transportation projects in the stimulus package that is moving forward in Congress," the group said in a statement. "As a member of Congress from Illinois between 1995 and 2009, then-Rep. LaHood made the most of his seat on the House Appropriations Committee and over time became adept at spending more and more of the taxpayers' money... For his long-standing disregard for the taxpayers' money and an abundance of concern over how he will administer the Department of Transportation, CAGW names Ray LaHood January Porker of the Month."
The group pointed to the fifty-two legislative earmarks for which LaHood took credit last year, totaling $58.9 million in spending. He diverted, for example, $448,000 in federal tax dollars to the Lakeview Museum Planetarium in Peoria, Illinois. Lawmakers frequently use earmarks to set aside federal spending for local needs to generate goodwill among voters. According to The Washington Post
's analysis, $9 million in earmarks also generated goodwill among campaign contributors.
Peoria-based Caterpillar has given LaHood $190,000 in campaign contributions while receiving $7.8 million in earmarks from LaHood last year alone. The road-building company United Contractors Midwest and the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association were among LaHood's top campaign donors. In return, LaHood secured $2 million in paving earmarks last year. LaHood consistently defended earmarks as part of the normal legislative process.
"The reason I went to the Appropriations Committee, the reason other people go on the Appropriations Committee, is they know that it puts them in a position to know where the money is at, to know the people who are doling the money out and to be in the room when the money is being doled out," LaHood told the Rockford Register Star in a February 2, 2008 article.
CAGW issues annual ratings that score members of Congress on their spending restraint. In his last year of office, LaHood earned what the group called an "abysmal" score of 11 out of 100. Source