Rep. Hal Rogers: One Member Who Never Lost His Appetite for Pork (Part I)

David Williams

May 31, 2012

(This is the first part in a two-part series on Rep. Hal Rogers [R-Ky.].  Tomorrow’s blog will detail his involvement with the United States Enrichment Corporation) When Congress passed its earmark moratorium, there was good reason to think earmarks would become a thing of the past.  But as is now apparent, it was wishful thinking to ever believe that Washington could be capable of giving up pork, cold turkey.  The longer the period of addiction, the more difficult it is to end.  This is especially true since many members of Congress had become so accustomed to and so enjoyed these kickbacks that benefited their districts, and ultimately their campaign coffers.

One of the most adept practitioners of earmarking has been Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY).  It’s no wonder then that Rep. Rogers confronted quite a challenge when Congress passed the two-year earmark moratorium.  But as the following example makes clear, when a member of Congress wants something bad enough, they figure out a way to make it happen.  Just like the addict in the rehab center determined to get his fix, so too are some members finding ways to sneak in earmarks hoping they go undetected.  On May 19, 2012, The New York Times exposed a specific example of waste and favoritism in earmarks benefiting Rogers’ district.  According to The New York Times, Hal Rogers arranged for the Army to purchase about “$6.5 million worth of ‘leakproof’ drip pans in the last three years to catch transmission fluid on Black Hawk helicopters.”  The cost to the taxpayer was $17,000 per drip pan compared to a similar pan from another company that costs only about $2,500. 

The issue goes beyond merely a waste of taxpayer dollars.  As the article rightly notes, this expense is particularly appalling given the $55 billion cuts the Pentagon is facing come January 1.  Furthermore, the extent to which favoritism was shown to Rep. Rogers’ district is the fact that “The contract was awarded without competitive bids because Phoenix [the drip pan manufacturing company] was the only company deemed ‘approved and certified’ for the work.”

Not only is it unfair that no other company could bid for this job, the Army said “it was simply following a budget directive from Congress.”  There’s no question that Army officials are capable of selecting which type of drip pan will best meet its needs.  However, the way this arrangement was crafted the Army did not even receive an opportunity to do so. 

And this is why there’s reason to believe that Rep. Rogers wanted to prevent the military from choosing the company that would best meet its requirements.  Had a competitive bidding process been in place, a certain liability would have come with it.  Rogers realized such an arrangement could result in Phoenix (the company in his district) not getting the contract.  For this reason, he cleverly crafted the language of the appropriations bill in a way that restricted and arbitrarily confined the law.  This clever, but sneaky action, was done so that the only company capable of meeting the terms was the one handpicked by Hal to benefit his district. 

As frustrating as this example is, this isn’t the first time Rep. Rogers has used this technique – nor is he the only one to do so.  The sad truth is that members of Congress will continue to raid the federal coffers for their own political gain as long as taxpayers allow them to do so.