If we didn’t already have enough evidence of Lee Terry’s hypocrisy on the subject of earmarks, there comes this excellent story from the Sunday Omaha World-Herald detailing one particular federal earmark for an I-80 bypass in southern Sarpy County – leading to a gravel road on an area of land owned by a single developer. The developer leased land to Public Service Commissioner Tim Schram, who helped lobby Congressmen Lee Terry and Jeff Fortenberry (as well as then-Congressman Doug Bereuter), and Senators Chuck Hagel and Ben Nelson for the federal dollars. Seldin (the developer), and the President of his company, contributed $6,300 to Terry, $2,750 to Fortenberry, $8,000 to Nelson, and $3,300 to Hagel.
I’d encourage you to read the entire article. It’s not often that the World-Herald nails a story, but they have a wealth of information here. But here’s the key: it’s government waste that directly lines the pockets of a lobbyist or those who he lobbies for. The very definition of pork. The article rightly points out that none of this is strictly illegal. But things of this nature raise huge ethical questions about who our elected officials, from a Public Service Commissioner to a United States Congressman, are actually serving. And it illustrates the absolute hypocrisy of elected officials who profess that they are against government waste and pork-barrel spending.
Jeff Fortenberry, who won the prize for most disingenuous objection to the Iraq spending bill on Thursday, came through with $1.6 million of the $4 million total earmark. Terry, who has paid plenty of lip-service in the past three months to “reform,” earmarked $800,000.
The cost to Sarpy County? At least $3 million. And the people responsible for this swindle want more:
But an attorney for Seldin Co., Pat Sullivan, voiced a different view last spring when the Sarpy County Board took up the question of how to pay for a $500,000 environmental study. Sullivan reminded the board that the company had spent “tens of thousands” of dollars lobbying Congress and said the company’s efforts had been “instrumental” in obtaining the earmarks.
At the time, Sullivan was explaining why Seldin Co. would not contribute $50,000 toward the cost of the study, something suggested by the county surveyor Lynam. Without a donation, taxpayers will pay the full $500,000 bill.
Sullivan told the board that a contribution from Seldin to the study was “not in the cards.”
In an interview, Seldin explained that an interchange would benefit all nearby property owners.
“If it’s of general benefit to everybody in the area,” Seldin asked, “why should we pay more than our share?”