Eastern Kentucky may love Hal Rogers, as evidenced by their continual support of him in election years, but not everyone feels the same way.
A political watchdog group known as the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has named Rogers — Kentucky’s Fifth District U.S. Representative hailing from here in Somerset — as one of the most corrupt members of Congress.
This is the fourth time Rogers has made this infamous list. It’s also not the only organization to target the prominent Republican representative in recent years. The Center for Public Integrity, which bills itself as a “nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organization,” has targeted Rogers as “engaging in controversial relationships involving ex-staffers-turned-lobbyists, contractors, campaign cash, and earmarks” as a member of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, making the list as a “new member” first in 2010. Rolling Stone magazine has also placed Rogers on their list of “worst Congressmen.”
Rogers has been a mainstay in this part of the country, first elected in 1980 and winning every two years since to hold onto his place in the U.S. House. His influence within the GOP’s ranks has grown over the years, as he currently chairs the House Appropriations Committee, which sets specific figures for federal expenditures, essentially controlling Washington’s pursestrings.
Though CREW has claimed to be nonpartisan, other journalistic sources, such as Politico and Time Magazine, have referred to the nonprofit group as “liberal” in nature.
Rogers was also placed on the “corrupt” list by CREW in 2007, 2008, and 2011, meaning that he’s now been included in half of the eight such reports the organization has published.
CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan is quoted in a release as saying, “Rep. Rogers’ obscene waste of taxpayer money on a single overpriced product makes a mockery of Congress’ plan to cut spending. ... Long known as the ‘Prince of Pork,’ although he has renounced earmarks, Rep. Rogers retains his throne.”
The release states that “(t)he Appropriations Committee chairman abused his position to steer more than $17 million worth of government contracts to one manufacturing company whose owners and lobbyists donated tens of thousands of dollars to his campaign and political action committees.”
It also says that “since 2006, the Army has entered into contracts totaling more than $17.6 million with Phoenix Products, a Kentucky-based company that manufactures leak-proof drip pans used to catch transmission fluid on UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. At an average cost of $17,000 per pan, the part costs nearly eight times what a competitor says he charges for a similar part.
“When asked about the contracts, Rep. Rogers’ office told reporters they had been awarded through a competitive bidding process, even though the congressman had previously boasted of securing the funds for Phoenix Products, and posted a list of earmark requests for 2010 on his website that included funding for Phoenix Products. Rep. Rogers’ campaign and political action committees have raised nearly $40,000 from the owners of Phoenix Products and employees of its lobbying firm since 2002.”
Said Sloan, “In this era of massive budget deficits and spending cuts, it is exactly because of wasteful spending like this that Americans have so little confidence in Congress.”
Of the twelve “most corrupt,” eight were Republicans and four were Democrats. Another category, “Dishonorable Mention,” listed five Republicans and three Democrats.
Rogers’ office was contacted for comment by the Commonwealth Journal, but declined.