Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Friday, July 16, 2010

Is Adam Smith Building a New Bridge to Nowhere? You Betcha!

Rep. Adam Smith of Washington’s 9th Congressional District likes to portray himself as what the Seattle Times calls a “raging moderate.” Smith supported the Iraq surge in 2007 and he voted against the House’s original health care reform bill.

But Smith is the chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee on Air and Land Forces. And in this role, Smith is showing that he can play the pork barrel polka with the best Big Government liberal. But unlike earmark champions Patty Murray and the late Robert Byrd, Smith’s effort do not benefit his district at all, but rather fat cat corporate donors to his campaign.

Smith has defied the Pentagon and approved funding for a second engine program for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being built by Rolls-Royce and General Electric. According to Government Executive.com:

But Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said repeatedly that he will recommend President Obama veto any defense legislation that keeps alive the alternate engine program, arguing that any savings generated from competition are not worth the upfront costs of developing and buying two engines.

"Study on top of study has shown that an extra fighter engine achieves marginal potential savings but heavy upfront costs -- nearly $3 billion worth," Gates said during a May 8 address on defense spending, delivered at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kan.

After the markups, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the Pentagon will "continue to engage in the process to ensure they understand why this is not in the interest of our military and the taxpayers."
Smith defends the project by saying it will lower costs through competition.

ABC News did a story on the F-35 alternate engine back in May, referring to it as a “$3 billion boondoggle:”

The latest FEC reports shows that $15,800 has been donated to Smith’s campaign by employees of Denny Miller and Associates. Not surprisingly, Denny Miller and Associates is the lobbying firm for, you guessed it, General Electric.

Another $3,500 has been donated to Smith’s campaign by the Rolls-Royce North America PAC and $2,500 by the General Electric Company PAC.

A $21,800 investment for a congressman’s vote on a $3 billion project has to be the best ROI in history for GE and Rolls-Royce.

It gets worse. Smith has approximately  $15,001 - $50,000 invested in the Vanguard 500 Index Fund. And guess what is the seventh largest holding in the Vanguard 500 portfolio?  Yeah, General Electric.  Conflict of interest, anyone?

So will there be political fallout from this “new bridge to nowhere?” You betcha! A Clarus Research Group poll conducted in the 19 legislative districts of the members of the subcommittee (including WA-09) asked:

“If America’s military leaders at the Pentagon determine that a multi-billion dollar defense contract with a private company is wasteful and unnecessary, Congress should NOT spend the money.” Of this 87%, 71% said “strongly” agree and 16 percent said “somewhat” agree.

“Congress spends too much money on wasteful programs that primarily benefit well-connected political supporters and special interest groups.” (86% agree; 64% “strongly” and 22% “somewhat”)

“If your member of Congress voted to spend the three billion dollars for this extra jet engine, would you be more or less inclined to support him or her for re-election in this November’s election?” The result: 7% more inclined, 67% less inclined, 13% volunteered it would make no difference.

We can’t afford Adam Smith, his corporate donors, his sweetheart deals, his boondoggles, or his new bridge to nowhere. Vote Dick Muri for Congress.

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