On the train back from a very brief trip to Washington Saturday, I passed through the Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station, with a huge sign honoring the senator from New Jersey who used our tax money to pay for the station. Something about honoring a sitting member of Congress by naming something he spent money on after him struck me as vaguely off-putting, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.
Now comes USA Today with an article that begins as follows:
At first glance, Congressmen Hal Rogers and Chaka Fattah don't have much in common. Rogers, a Republican, represents a rural district in Kentucky. Fattah, a Democrat, hails from an urban district in Philadelphia.
Thanks to Rogers, this year's federal spending will include $18.9 million funneled to a half-dozen non-profit groups he founded that do everything from research homeland security technologies to clean litter along his district's highways. One sponsors summer camps for students called "Rogers Scholars" and "Rogers Explorers."
Fattah directed $3.5 million this year to three non-profit groups he founded that provide scholarships and educational programs. One organizes the annual "Fattah Conference on Higher Education."
Fattah and Rogers are among eight lawmakers who have used special legislative provisions called "earmarks" to fund charities with close personal connections.
Link via Reason.com and FutureOfCapitalism reader-participant-watchdog-content co-creator-community member E., who notes that the Republicans and the Democrats both do this sort of thing.
It's particularly noteworthy in connection with the death of Senator Byrd, whose Washington Post obituary reports, "West Virginia is dotted with more than 30 federal projects named after Mr. Byrd, including two Robert C. Byrd U.S. courthouses, four Robert C. Byrd stretches of roadway, a Robert C. Byrd Bridge, two Robert C. Byrd interchanges, a Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam project and the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope."
How about a law that says no federal money can be used to name anything for a politician until the politician is dead?