Congresswoman McCollum's Remarks on the Amendment to Eliminate Funding for Professional Sports Sponsorships

[as prepared]

Mr. Speaker, last week, the U.S. Army announced it was ending its ten-year, multi-million dollar taxpayer funded relationship with NASCAR racing.  Intended as a recruitment effort, an Army spokesperson said on CNN it was “not a great investment.”  The Navy and Marine Corps pulled out of NASCAR years ago.

Over the past five years the Pentagon has paid one racing team – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – $136 million in taxpayer funds to put the National Guard’s logo on his car – in the name of military recruitment.  But, USA Today reported that this year taxpayers are paying Mr. Earnhardt $26.5 million which the National Guard reports has resulted in only 20 qualified candidates expressing interest and zero actual recruits.

Over the past two years the National Guard has spent over $20 million in tax dollars funding professional bass fishing tournaments!  Folks, we are in a fiscal crisis in this country.  Bass fishing is not a national security priority when this Congress is cutting communities and needy families all across this country.

This year the Pentagon will spend in excess of $80 million on NASCAR racing sponsorships, professional bass fishing tournaments, ultimate cage fighting, and a myriad of other sports sponsorships.  This program is a waste of taxpayer money.  It doesn’t work.  There is no government data on outcomes to tell policymakers or taxpayers that this is an effective use of scarce tax dollars.

Over the past few days the professional sports lobby has come out in full force to protect their taxpayer funded subsidy.  But for purposes of the 2013 Defense Appropriations bill – those teams are military contractors who have failed to deliver for taxpayers and it is time to cut this wasteful program.

I want to thank Rep. Kingston for his leadership in joining me in this effort to cut a Pentagon program that is not effective.  I want private sector companies to advertise at NASCAR events or fishing tournaments if it works for them.  If the private sector wants to pool their money to sponsor a military race car to demonstrate their patriotism – FANSTASTIC!

But my job is to be a steward of taxpayer funds and make sure tax dollars are being effectively used.  This pro-sports sponsorship program needs to end.  But, I also want to be very clear about something this amendment does not do.  It does not prohibit or limit military recruiters from recruiting at NASCAR races or any other pro-sports event.

I want military recruiters to attend motorsports races and any community events if that is where potential recruits gather.  We need more recruiters out doing their job in way that brings our nation’s best and brightest into the Armed Forces.

In this $608 billion defense appropriations bill every effort should be made to cut waste and demand effective government programs.  If we cannot cut a program that fails to achieve its mission, how with this Congress every make the tough cuts to get America’s fiscal house in order?  It is irresponsible and outrageous to think this Congress would be willing to borrow money from China to pay one race car driver and his team $26 million for delivering zero recruits! 

Again, our nation is facing a fiscal crisis.  Communities and families, seniors and vulnerable children are bearing the burden of deep and painful budget cuts.  This Congress needs to get is priorities in order and stop protecting military spending that doesn’t work.

I urge my colleagues to support the “Kingston-McCollum” amendment – cut a wasteful program and reduce the deficit by $72 million.

I yield back my time.