A national watchdog group has named Congressman Hal Rogers, R-Ky., among the most corrupt lawmakers in the country.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a non-partisan group, released its annual Most Corrupt Members of Congress report Wednesday, which lists 12 members it alleges have engaged in misconduct.
The report calls out Rogers for directing millions of dollars in earmarks to a Kentucky-based company that has contributed to his campaign. Phoenix Products Co. located in Maceo, Ky., has been paid $6.5 million by the U.S. Army for hundreds of leak-proof drip pans for military helicopters.
Earlier this year, The New York Times reported that Phoenix Products was paid $17,000 per drip pan, but that competitor businesses said similar products cost only $2,500.
Melanie Sloan is executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. She says Rogers is a frequent offender, and constituents concerned about fiscal responsibility should be alarmed.
"While these may be made in Kentucky this is hurting America. We have a huge deficit. We can’t afford all of our bills. And here it is we’re paying over $14,500 extra for each drip pan. And that’s taxpayer money. So we should all be concerned,” she says.
The company’s owners have been political donors to Rogers’s re-election bids and have personally given over $20,000 since 2004. Another $17,000 has been contributed by employees via the company's lobbying firm since 2002.
For years, Rogers has been dubbed the "Prince of Pork" by critics for his ability to attach pork barrel spending to legislation. Despite Rogers's reputation clashing with the austerity push of the Tea Party movement, he is currently the chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee
Rogers’ office did not return a call seeking comment for this story.
From the New York Times:
A Congressional aide said that Mr. Rogers inserted the earmark after Army officials went to him with concerns about fluids that were leaking into the cabins of Black Hawks, splattering not only crew members but also wounded soldiers being airlifted to hospitals. “The Army came to the boss and said this is an issue,” said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in discussing internal communications.
The Army, however, said it was simply following a budget directive from Congress. Mr. Rogers’s earmark came before House members informally agreed to ban such provisions to for-profit companies.
“Congress mandated a leakproof transmission drip pan,” said Dov Schwartz, an Army spokesman. The contract was awarded without competitive bids because Phoenix was the only company deemed “approved and certified” for the work, he said. “The number of people that make leakproof transmission dripping pans is few and far between,” Mr. Schwartz said, adding that the steel required for such pans is more costly than the plastic used in other versions.
"Mr. Rogers continual, long-term (and) generally corrupt behavior of exchanging earmarks for campaign contributions is the kind of thing that makes Americans so disgusted with their government," says Sloan, adding her group has filed a complaint against Rogers with the Office of Congressional Ethics and asked the U.S. military to investigate.