The taxpayer advocacy group Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has named U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray H. LaHood its “January 2009 Porker of the Month.” “In his new position, Secretary LaHood will preside over the distribution of tens of billions of tax dollars for transportation projects in the stimulus package that is moving forward in Congress,” the group said in a statement. “As a member of Congress from Illinois between 1995 and 2009, then-Rep. LaHood made the most of his seat on the House Appropriations Committee and over time became adept at spending more and more of the taxpayers’ money… For his long-standing disregard for the taxpayers’ money and an abundance of concern over how he will administer the Department of Transportation, CAGW names Ray LaHood January Porker of the Month.”
The group pointed to the fifty-two legislative earmarks for which LaHood took credit last year, totaling $58.9m in spending. For example, he diverted $448,000 in federal tax dollars to the Lakeview Museum Planetarium in Peoria, Illinois.
According to The Washington Post‘s, LaHood’s campaign contributors are beneficiaries of his adroitness in the earmark department. Peoria-based Caterpillar tendered LaHood’s campaign $190k while receiving $7.8m in earmarks. The road-building company United Contractors Midwest and the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association were also among LaHood’s top campaign donors. In return, LaHood secured $2m in paving earmarks on their behalf. And those are just ’08’s totals.
LaHood defends earmarks as part of the normal legislative process.
“The reason I went to the Appropriations Committee, the reason other people go on the Appropriations Committee, is they know that it puts them in a position to know where the money is at, to know the people who are doling the money out and to be in the room when the money is being doled out,” LaHood told the Rockford Register Star in a February 2, 2008, article.
CAGW issues annual ratings that score members of Congress on their spending restraint. In his last year of office, LaHood rated 11 out of 100.