What does $5,000 to Tom DeLay's legal defense fund and thousands more to Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) get you?
$500,000 for a parking lot. The Lexington Herald-Leader does some enterprising reporting, and they get this:
U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers put $500,000 in this year's federal budget to build a parking lot for a private resort on Lake Cumberland that is owned by one of his campaign contributors.
The [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] oversees most projects at Lake Cumberland, which the federal government created in 1952, but it usually does not use public funds to improve private businesses, said Tom Hale, the corps' operations manager at Lake Cumberland.
However, he is working with [marina owner J.D.] Hamilton on designs for a hilltop lot to provide more than 200 parking spaces.
"The corps did not ask for it (the money). This is something that Hal Rogers put in there," Hale said.
Later, he added: "I'm sure all of the other (marina) operators on the lake would love to have something of that nature if they could get it."
Of course, an explanation:
Hamilton said he approached Rogers last year to complain about insufficient parking at his resort. At the peak of tourism season, in the summer, visitors often park on the roadside leading to the resort, he said.
The next thing he knew, the $388 billion federal appropriations bill, signed by President Bush on Dec. 8, had money earmarked for just that purpose, he said.
"That's the American system," Hamilton said.
"But this project stands on its own," he said. "I don't think everyone who gives a political donation gets a favor. I honestly think that if someone came here from China and had a deal for Hal Rogers that would benefit his constituents, Hal would help him."
Rogers was not available for personal comment yesterday, an aide said in Washington. He returned to work yesterday after his annual trip to Hawaii to attend a seminar sponsored by the American Association of Airport Executives. On the appropriations panel, Rogers has a say on funding for transportation and homeland security.
In a written statement, Rogers said the new parking lot is part of his larger strategy to boost the tourism economy around Lake Cumberland.
I've always thought that parking lots boosted tourism. Right.