Watchdog group rates congressional delegation on waste

Thursday, July 18, 2002

A Washington watchdog group against government waste has given the Missouri congressional delegation rankings that fall along party lines -- the two Republicans got fairly high marks and the Democrat got a failing grade.

But all three -- U.S. Sens. Kit Bond and Jean Carnahan and U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson -- are united on one front: The $44 million price tag of constructing a new federal courthouse in Cape Girardeau is not an example of governmental overspending.

The Citizens Against Government Waste recently announced its annual rankings of members of Congress. The group calls itself nonpartisan and claims one-million members and supporters.

It gave Republicans Bond and Emerson rankings of 65 and 67, which it categorizes as "taxpayer friendly." It gave Democrat Carnahan a ranking of 20 or "unfriendly to taxpayers." The group rated 27 votes in the House and 20 votes in the Senate, including votes on the estate tax, marriage tax, capital gains tax and the Bush tax cut.

Partisan opinions

Carnahan's spokesman Tony Wyche said Citizens Against Government Waste is clearly a partisan group.

"They're not a group whose views jibe with people in Southeast Missouri," Wyche said. "They were against the farm bill, opposed to the patient's bill of rights and they oppose additional resources for homeland security. Sen. Carnahan doesn't represent that group or any other Washington-based partisan organization."

Combating Goths

However, while giving Bond high marks, it was critical of one of Bond's spending decisions. Bond supported spending $273,000 at the Blue Springs Youth Outreach Unit for educational training in "combating Goth culture," a move the group dubbed as silly.

"The senator's always used that report as a pretty good index of how he's delivering dollars to the state," said Bond spokesman Ernie Blazar. "If they're critical, it just means he's doing his job."

Bond, Emerson and Carnahan also all defended the federal government's plan to spend more than $44 million on actual construction of a new Cape Girardeau courthouse. That works out to $285 a square foot, which is more than the $195 a square foot spent on the Eagleton Federal Courthouse in St. Louis.

Emerson, echoing points the other two made, pointed out that construction costs have risen more than 25 percent since the Eagleton courthouse was approved 10 years ago. Cape Girardeau also has to make its buildings safe against earthquakes, which costs more, she said. Not to mention that security standards are much higher now since the Oklahoma City bombing and Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"It's like comparing apples to oranges," she said. "It's two different projects with two different set of circumstances."

335-6611, extension 137

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