Monday, September 10, 2007

In a Pig's Ear!

It's important to understand just what Congressional pork politics is all about. Members of Congress, both House and Senate, can add line items to any appropriation bill (all bills?) that directs a specific agency to spend money. This direction can vary from describing a concept for investigation to commanding that a specific amount of money be given to a specific company for a very specific purpose. For example, a congressman can detail that $2 million be paid to the ABC motor company to develop a new motor for a torpedo.

The downside is that rarely does anyone check to see if ABC motor company actually spent the money on the torpedo motor. And if they do, ABC motor company can just reply that they spent the money and discovered their concept wasn't feasible and so they did not develop any product.

The worst part is that the Navy may not have wanted the new torpedo motor in the first place, even if it ends up being developed.

In this story, we see another example of why pork is bad.
A twisted tale of congressional earmarking has taken another turn.

The U.S. Navy wants a business owned by the family of Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski to hand over a piece of high-tech equipment bought with some of the $9.25 million in taxpayer funds Kanjorski steered to the company.

Except no one seems to know where to find the equipment — a high-pressure pump.
The mystery of the missing pump, combined with newly unearthed evidence that federal investigators probed Kanjorski’s connections to the company, Cornerstone Technologies, has given new life to a story that seems unlikely to go away.
In this case, the Navy actually wants the pump, but the company, oh, poor babies, just can't seem to find it.

As you read further in the article, you find that Rep Kanjorski encouraged his nephew to establish the company to look into commercializing technology that he, Kanjorski, was personally interested in. Now he claims that he didn't really know what was going on in the company.

Come on. You are interested in commercializing a technology but can't do it yourself because of your position in Congress. So you encourage your nephew. What does this mean? Something like this, I bet:
  • Hey, Tim. Why don't you start this company?
  • Gee, Uncle Paul, I don't really know much about that, but won't the research and development costs be very high?
  • No problem, Tim, I'm a congressman remember. I can spend OPM!! (other people's money). I'll give your company money to develop products. After you spend OPM on the development, you can sell the products to whomever and reap the profits. The best part is that nobody will ever care what you did with the money.
I think members of Congress should get out of the line item business. Why do they think they know so much about an individual area that they have the right to spend millions of our money without accountability?

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