The Center for Public Integrity has an interesting report called “Stimulating Hypocrisy”. It is well known that many of the same politicians who voted against the stimulus bill (and continue to call it a waste of money) simultaneously worked hard to direct that money towards their own pet projects. I guess I can’t blame them, and you can almost justify such a two-faced position, like conservative Pete Sessions tried when asked why his opposition to the stimulus didn’t stop him from lobbying for stimulus money for a rail project in his district. According to CPI, Sessions told them that he did not want his “strong, principled objection to the bill to prevent me” from getting his congressional district its share of the massive spending pot. It’s the old “government is corrupt, so I may as well get some of that corrupt money to come my way” argument.
But what I find completely hypocritical are the letters that these politicians are writing in support of their pet projects. At the same time that Sessions was attacking the stimulus, calling it a wasteful “trillion dollar spending spree” that wasn’t about “growing the economy and creating jobs” and saying it was an “abject failure”, his letter to the Transportation Secretary asking for $81 for his rail project talked about how the project “will create jobs, stimulate the economy, improve regional mobility and reduce pollution.”
Even Tea Party favorites like Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown and Minnesota Rep Michele Bachmann, staunch libertarians like Ron Paul, and campaigners against pork like John McCain wrote letters and made phone calls asking for stimulus money. Scott Brown claimed that the stimulus “didn’t create one new job” but then turned around and wrote a letter in support of a $45 million stimulus grant that he said would “help prepare our next generation of entrepreneurs and job creators.” Michele Bachmann called it “the failed Pelosi trillion-dollar stimulus” but wrote more than a half dozen letters on behalf of proposed stimulus grants, including one where she argued that the project “would directly produce 1,407 new jobs per year while indirectly producing 1,563 a year – a total of 2,970 jobs each year after the project’s completion.” Indeed, the GOP “Pledge to America” specifically promises to cancel all unspent stimulus dollars if Republicans regain control of Congress in the upcoming election.
The hypocrisy isn’t limited to Republicans of course. I’m not just talking about conservative Democrats who voted against the bill but then thrust their hand out to benefit from it. There are Democrats (including Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid) who boasted about how they prevented lawmakers from inserting specific “earmarks” into the bill, but then turned around and engaged in behind-the-scenes letter writing campaigns to direct the money their way. For example, Democrat Brad Ellsworth was originally against the stimulus bill, but after receiving a significant donation from Duke Energy’s political action committee he changed his mind and voted for it, and then helped Duke receive a grant from the Energy Department.
At the CPI site, you can enter the name of your state and see letters written by your politicians requesting stimulus money. Using the Freedom of Information Act, CPI was able to obtain over 1500 letters from politicians that were written to just three departments (Transportation, Energy, and Commerce).