When it comes to politicians using your tax dollars to rename public properties after themselves, have you ever asked yourself, is America turning into Uzbekistan?
Wall Street Journal reader Alan Sechrest of Mission Viejo, Calif. was wondering the same thing, when he wrote a letter to the paper asking why Democrat Nevada Senator Harry Reid handed over $2 million of our money to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas but was happy to take credit as though he wrote the check from his personal account. The money was for beginning construction of the "UNLV Harry Reid Research and Technology Park."
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Sechrest asked Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who has been fighting against pork barrel spending in Congress, to sponsor a bill stating that no currently serving legislator or other government employee may have his or her name attached to any project paid for by taxpayer dollars.
He added if they do, then they must erect a sign that simply says: "This park was made possible by the taxpayers.
Theres one congressman whos been fighting this lonely battle against taxpayer-funded vanity projects where politicians get buildings or bridges or roads named after themselves.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) has been introducing bills since 2008 that would stop the use of your tax dollars to funds for any project or program named for any individual serving as a member of Congress, or delegate, or resident Commissioner.
But the bill sits frozen as a statue at the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, ignored.
Its pretty clear that the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) set the standard for having government property and other assets named after himself, with more than 30 public properties named after him while a sitting senator. The joke in West Virginia is, highway drivers get lost for hours driving mindlessly around in circles on roads named after the late Senator (take Route Robert Byrd to Highway Robert Byrd to Interstate Robert Byrd.)
Here are the Congressmen who used taxpayer money to name public properties after themselves, according to Rep. McCaul, a list thats as of June 25, 2009. This is likely an incomplete list, but it's the best Rep. McCaul could do:
Sen. Robert Byrd, D-WVA: Robert C. Byrd Center for Hospitality and Tourism; Robert C. Byrd addition to the lodge at Oglebay Park, Wheeling; Robert C. Byrd Hilltop Office Complex; Robert C. Byrd Locks and Dam; Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope; Robert C. Byrd Aerospace Tech Center; Robert C. Byrd Industrial Park; Robert C. Byrd Drive, from Beckley to Sophia (Byrd's hometown); Robert C. Byrd National Technology Transfer Center at Wheeling Jesuit University; Robert C. Byrd Highway; Robert C. Byrd Federal Correctional Institution; Robert C. Byrd High School; Robert C. Byrd Freeway; Robert C. Byrd Science Center; Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center of West Virginia; Robert C. Byrd Cancer Research Center; Robert C. Byrd Technology Center at Alderson-Broaddus College
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA: Harkin Grants: A grant program for local school remodeling in Iowa; Harkin Wellness Grants: A grant program for promoting healthy lifestyles in Iowa; Thomas R. Harkin Global Communications Center (CDC building)
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-KY: Mitch McConnell Park in Bowling Green, KY
Sen. Arlen Specter, D-PA: Arlen Specter Headquarters and Emergency Operations Center (CDC building)
Rep. James Clyburn, D-SC: James E. Clyburn Golf Center; James E. Clyburn Pedestrian Overpass; James E. Clyburn Intermodal Transportation Center; Rep. John Dingell, D-MI; John D. Dingell Drive at new airport terminal in Detroit Metro
Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-NJ: Frank R. Lautenberg Rail Station in Secaucus Rep. John Murtha, D-PA: Jack Murtha Highway, John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-NY: Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at the City College of New York, the $1.9 million in tax dollars
Sen. Harry Reid, D-N.V.: UNLV Harry Reid Research and Technology Park, $2 million earmark
Rep. C.W. Young, R-FL: C.W. Young Center for Bio-Defense and Emerging Infectious Disease
Wall Street Journal editorial writer William McGurn has written about this abuse of your tax dollars. Gurn notes that these "monuments to me are a gateway to even more taxpayer abuses, because they grease the "way for fatter appropriations bills. They invite clear conflicts of interest ..even when federal funds are not used for the original naming."
He adds: At the minimum, a public park or building named for an elected official provides a huge political advertisement for an incumbenta campaign advantage paid for with the public's cash.
Gurn notes that the press release for the Frank Lautenburg project boasts that "the vast majority of funding for this station was secured as a result of Senator Lautenberg's work as Chairman and Ranking Member of the powerful Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee."