Sen. Tom Coburn (Senate.gov)
When Oklahoma Sen. Tom "Dr. No" Coburn and his partners in intransigence want to depict funding for transportation enhancements as wasteful, they take two deceptive approaches
, an AP fact check finds. First, they exaggerate the amount spent, saying that states are required to spend 10 percent of federal transportation money on the transportation enhancements program. In fact, it's 10 percent of one specific piece of federal aid, which amounts to just 2 percent of total federal transportation money.
Then they really go to work, spinning tales of specific outrages that have wasted federal transportation funding while our bridges crumble. The big problem with that is that, as the AP's Joan Lowy details, Coburn and allies like John McCain start with a list of 39 allegedly wasteful projects, out of more than 25,000 done in the program's nearly 20 year history, and even so many of their examples are false:
Coburn's list includes a 1996 grant for preservation of a "factory used to make saddletrees" — the foundation of a riding saddle — in Madison, Ind. Not mentioned is that the grant wouldn't qualify for enhancement money under current program rules, according to Transportation Department officials.
The Texas Department of Transportation is described as spending $16.2 million in enhancement money to restore the Battleship Texas, docked in the Houston Ship Channel. If so, they weren't federal transportation dollars. U.S. transportation officials said an application for the money was turned down.
The list cited landscaping to screen a junkyard in Aiken, S.C. After checking with state and local authorities, federal officials said the project was canceled years ago and again, no funds were awarded.
Then there are the cases where federal transportation money was actually spent, but Republicans are misrepresenting what it was spent on. They love to talk about the turtle tunnel in Florida, which allows turtles to cross under a busy section of road and not be run over. But as I've previously pointed out, even if you don't think saving wildlife is a worthwhile activity, that tunnel helps prevent traffic accidents that had been caused by drivers swerving to avoid turtles (and, Lowy notes, alligators and other animals). What's more, the tunnels came in under budget, where Republicans are claiming that the project is over budget and that expenditures are continuing.
Similarly, Republicans have represented a simulator theater at the National Corvette Museum as being entertainment, a chance to feel what it's like to drive a Corvette. But really, it's "a driver-education classroom for free driving classes for older people and teenagers."
It's the $16 muffin all over again, and it's the best they've got: lies, more lies and misrepresentations.