President-elect Barack Obama has received plaudits for reaching across the aisle. That includes appointing Republican Rep. Ray LaHood to be Transportation Secretary. But no budget hawk is Ray. Rather, he’s one of the great porkers in the Congress.
The former Republican congressman chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to direct billions in federal highway spending has been an unapologetic advocate of earmarks, a practice Obama now opposes, and has used his influence to win funding for projects pushed by some of his largest campaign contributors.
Ray LaHood, who represented Illinois in the House for seven terms, sponsored $60 million in earmarks last year, steering at least $9 million in federal money to campaign donors, a Washington Post analysis shows. An opponent of earmark reform efforts in Congress, LaHood ranks roughly among the top 10 percent in the House for sponsoring earmarks in 2008, according to a watchdog group.
LaHood’s record poses an important question as hearings begin today that will explore how he would administer part of a $775 billion stimulus package that will be directed to the Transportation Department. LaHood has defended his use of earmarks as a way to direct federal money to decaying communities in his district and insisted there is no connection between his earmarks and projects benefiting campaign donors.
This just adds further proof to the axiom that if politicians start talking about bipartisanship, you should reach for your wallet!