Since 2002, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers – Kentucky’s own “prince of pork” – has secured $7.1 million for improvements to College Street and other portions of Somerset, Ky. The main reason this is news is that Hal Rogers’ home is on College Street. The Washington Post today discusses the appearance of personal enrichment by many lawmakers and the possible impropriety.
The problem here isn’t that Mr. Rogers has enriched himself with this project to improve his own street (it probably has improved his home’s value), the problem is that Mr. Rogers can always enrich himself with federal handouts no matter who gets the direct benefit. The payoff to Rogers may not come in the form of home equity, but it could come in the form of future favors, future votes from other members of the House and future campaign contributions from thankful recipients of federal handouts.
So rather than ask why Hal Rogers is devoting a tiny portion of federal spending to fixing up his own street, we should be asking why the federal government has the money and power to fix any local street at all. The people who benefit most should be the people who pay for local improvements. Instead of taxpayers in New York and California paying for Hal Rogers’ street repair, it should be local city or county taxes that foot the bill.
Hal Rogers, of course, sees no problem with paving his street with federal tax money. His spokesman told the Post, “Congressman Rogers sees no conflict of interest in helping local leaders achieve their goals for growth at large or in this case in particular.”
Reason.tv and Citizens Against Government Waste named Hal Rogers their Porker of the Month in 2010. Surely he’s earned that honor again since then, right?