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Congresswoman McCollum's Statement to the House Committee on Rules H.R. 5856 – Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2013

June 28, 2012
Statements For the Record

[as prepared]

Chairman Drier, Ranking Member Slaughter, Members of the Rules Committee, I must say I am surprised to be here today responding to this effort by the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee to perpetuate wasteful and ineffective government spending on Department of Defense sports sponsorships.

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.

In this $608 billion bill every effort should be made to cut waste and demand effective government programming. In my opinion, it should be considered the duty of a responsible appropriator at a time of trillion dollar deficits to turn off the spigot on the flow of taxpayer dollars to these wasteful programs.

Mr. McKeon’s letter to Chairman Drier states that section 8121 of the FY2013 Defense Appropriations bill, which was an amendment authored by my Republican colleague from Georgia, Mr. Kingston, violates Rule XXI.

I was proud to co-sponsor Mr. Kingston’s amendment in the Appropriations Committee mark-up and I strongly disagree with Mr. McKeon’s characterization.

At a time when this country is facing a fiscal crisis, trillion dollar deficits, a on-going war in Afghanistan, and the prospects of $50 billion in defense cuts through sequestration in January, it should be deeply troubling to taxpayers to have the Armed Services Chairman or this committee investing one second of time trying to salvage the Defense Department’s failed and wasteful sports sponsorship program.

Mr. McKeon’s letter asserts that language offered by Mr. Kingston – a distinguished member of the Defense Appropriations Sub-Committee – “requires the Department of Defense to make new determinations not otherwise required in existing law, such as what would be considered a ‘semi-professional sporting event’ and ‘competitor.’”

Mr. Chairman, the Department of Defense already makes these determinations with every contract it has signed as it has spent in excess of $1 billion since this ineffective and wasteful sponsorship program began more than a decade ago.

For example, Mr. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is a NASCAR race car driver that the Department of Defense has paid $136 million over the past five years to put a National Guard sticker on his race car and wear the logo on his uniform.

Is he a “competitor”?  Is he a government contractor? Or is he just a moving billboard?

It would appear the Pentagon has already made that determination, regardless of the Chairman McKeon’s concerns, every time it pays Mr. Earnhardt millions of taxpayer funds.

What I do know is that according to USA Today, this taxpayer funded sponsorship of Mr. Earnhardt’s racing team cost taxpayers $26 million last year.

The result of Mr. Earnhardt’s multi-million dollar sponsorship, according the National Guard, was 24,800 individuals expressed interested in the Guard which resulted in only 20 qualified candidates and ultimately zero recruits.

I will let this committee make it’s determination about what violates Rule XXI, but $26 million for zero recruits violates the common sense test, the smell test, and is a waste of money.

NASCAR, Hot Rod racing, Indy Car racing, Super Motorcycle racing teams all are receiving multi-million dollar taxpayer funded sponsorships. 

The Pentagon spent $20 million over the past two years sponsoring professional bass fishing tournaments.

Since when did bass fishing become a matter of national security?

I applaud Mr. Kingston’s determination to root out wasteful government spending in the Pentagon and I am proud to join him in this effort.

If this committee decides to honor Chairman McKeon’s request then I look forward to the full House having the opportunity to vote on amendments to end the practice of borrowing money from China to pay for multi-million dollar contracts to race car drivers, professional wrestlers, and bass fishing tournaments.

I thank the committee for allowing me to testify.