AC360: 'Prince Of Pork' Wins Top Seat On House Appropriations Committee

Looks like this one has got the conservatives up in arms. Seems the Republicans are not very serious about their pledge to end earmarks with this appointment. Conservatives upset that 'Prince of Pork' will rule spending panel: High-profile

Looks like this one has got the conservatives up in arms. Seems the Republicans are not looking very serious about their pledge to end earmarks with this appointment.

Conservatives upset that 'Prince of Pork' will rule spending panel:

High-profile conservatives are questioning the decision by House Republicans to place Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), a veteran lawmaker with a history of earmarking, in charge of a key spending committee.

Richard Viguerie, a longtime conservative activist, said Rogers's election as the next Appropriations Committee chairman (along with Michigan GOP Rep. Fred Upton's selection as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee) "should cause all conservatives and Tea Partiers to doubt how serious the Republican leadership is about cleaning up the culture of waste, seniority and corruption in Congress.""Grassroots conservatives are unhappy with the status quo in Washington, and Speaker-designate Boehner needs to balance this slap in the face with something to show conservatives that he is truly committed to reversing the size of government," Viguerie wrote in a blog post Thursday.

'Prince of pork' wins top seat on House Appropriations Cmte.:

U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers — known for his ability to secure funding for projects in his Eastern Kentucky district — was selected Tuesday as the new chairman of House Appropriations, the most powerful committee in Congress.

The 5th District Republican was chosen by the GOP steering committee in a secret vote late Tuesday afternoon. The decision is expected to be ratified Wednesday by the rest of the House Republicans. [...]

In the lead-up to the selection, some conservatives argued that neither Rogers nor Lewis was qualified to be the chairman because of their past history as vigorous users of earmarks, special requests for spending on state and local projects.

Critics dubbed Rogers “the Prince of Pork” and called his earmark-benefitted district, where everything from highway construction to homeland security contracts had the Kentuckian's help over the years, “Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.”

Rogers secured 137 earmarks worth $251.9 million between 2008 and 2010, according to LegisStorm, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog group. That ranked him 99th among Senate and House members with earmarks.

Transcript below the fold.

COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight: a politician who says we should all grab a shovel and start digging the government out of debt, who says he's committed to ensuring, in his words, that taxpayer money is being used appropriately. Sounds good.

He's Congressman Hal Rogers of Kentucky. He will be the new chairman of the congressional committee that decides how your tax dollars are actually spent. And he's been called one of the biggest money-wasters in Congress. Of course, that comes from folks who don't actually live in his district, which is the beneficiary of an awful lot of that money.

Now, I want to show you something he posted on his Web site, a column he wrote for "Roll Call" magazine. "It's time," he writes, "to grab a big shovel with a sharp blade to start digging ourselves out of this $14 trillion mess."

The congressman goes on to write, "We have got to go line by line and take an axe to programs that we simply can't afford."

Well, it sounds tough. And, as new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, he's going to be in a position to do just that. But, "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, Congressman Rogers only seems to talk the talk, not exactly walk the walk.

Take a look at this. These are the earmarks, the pet projects for 2010 that Congressman Rogers got his rural district. There's 52 of them totaling $98.9 million, according to the nonpartisan group the Center for Responsive Politics, putting him in the top 20 percent of all congressional earmarkers.

Now, some earmarks are totally -- of course totally legit. And you can judge for yourself if some of his are. For instance, he got a quarter-billion dollars in the last two years, including $52 million for a national center for hometown security. It's located right there in Somerset, Kentucky, which is Congressman Rogers' hometown, population -- wait for it -- 11,000.

Well, the local airports have also gotten earmarks over the years, $17 million, even though the last commercial airline, well, they pulled out in February due to a lack of passengers. It's right down the road, by the way, from the Hal Rogers Parkway.

In August, Citizens Against Government Waste named him their "Porker of the Month." And according to "The Lexington Herald- Journal," the congressman this summer pushed through a $5 million measure for conservation groups that work with cheetahs -- cheetahs in the wild.

Now, I was surprised when I heard that, because I -- I didn't realize there were cheetahs in the wild in Kentucky. It turns out there's not.

Cheetos, yes. Cheetahs, no. There is at least one cheetah- lover, however, in the state. Her name is Allison Rogers, and she's the congressman's daughter, who just so happens to work for a group called the Cheetah Conservation Fund.

Now, the congressman denies any conflict of interests, because he says he's always been a champion of wildlife. And that may be. But conflict or not, it -- it kind of goes against the grain of his own statements about cutting spending and comments from his fellow Republicans on the campaign trail and after.

Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I have been to the floor for 20 years saying that earmarking was a corrupt practice.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: Federal spending's out of control.

SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It just tells you how irrational this spending culture has become that's driven by earmarks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been a power that's been abused by the Congress.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We need to change the culture of spending.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: All this pork is bad. The old pork was bad. The new pork is bad.

RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY SENATOR-ELECT: Earmarks is part of the problem, and we must stop it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This country worked really well for 200 years without earmarks.

REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: And I'm all for saying let's just not have any earmarks.

REP. JEB HENSARLING (R), TEXAS: Earmark after earmark after earmark.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: All right, so that's how a lot of them ran on it. As you might imagine, some of those who have been railing against government pork are angry that Congressman Rogers is going to be in charge of spending in the new House, especially Tea Partiers.

Erick Erickson today blogging, asking, did you vote Republican for nothing?

But it wasn't bloggers or Tea Partiers who secured this so-called Prince of Pork his chairmanship. It was the House leadership, Eric Cantor and John Boehner. And what have they been saying about earmarks? Well, take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: The earmark process here in Congress is a symbol of a broken Washington and a symbol of out-of-control spending.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: Most Americans know that the earmark issue is emblematic of a greater problem in Washington, that Washington's spending too much, it's incurring too much debt, bringing on the need for higher taxes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was Congressman Cantor and Congressman Boehner back in April. The previous month, they had pledged a one-year moratorium on earmarks. And according to the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense, earmarked money is down about 40 percent so far in 2011 budgeting, largely due to that pledge. Let's give them credit for that.

But it's only a one-year pledge. And when it expires, the big- spending congressman will, in all likelihood, still be running his committee.

We invited Congressman Rogers on the program. He declined.

About Heather

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Please refer to our Terms of Service for information on our posting policy.