Taxpayer Rip-Off of the Week: $150,000 for Coca-Cola Science Center

With the amount of pork-barrel legislation coming out of Washington, one has to wonder if Congress is living on another planet. That might explain Congressional eagerness to lavish the Coca-Cola Space Science Center with America’s hard-earned tax dollars.

In last year’s 2005 VA/HUD Appropriations Bill (H.R. 4818), Congress earmarked $150,000 for the Coca-Cola Space Science Center in Columbus, Georgia, in the district of House VA/HUD Appropriations subcommittee member Sanford Bishop (D.-Ga.). The Science Center offers visitors a number of exhibits, including the Mead Observatory where nightly astronomy programs are held and the Challenger Center, where simulation programs allow visitors to partake in a "Voyage to Mars," a "Rendezvous with a Comet," or a "Return to the Moon."

Now, these exhibits seem like educational and enjoyable programs, but they should be paid for by the State of Georgia or better yet, by the more than wealthy Coca-Cola company, not taxpayers throughout the country. We’re talking about a company that is on the Forbes’ top companies list. Coca-Cola is no mom-and-pop business.

It is clear that this particular earmark cannot be defended as a national or even a local need. It is this kind of irresponsible behavior that is dragging this country further and further into debt. Perhaps our Senators and Representatives took one too many spins on one of the Center’s simulation rides. While that certainly doesn’t excuse their wasteful ways, at least it offers an explanation.

Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee voted in favor of spending tax dollars on the Coca-Cola Space Science Center (Senate Roll Call Vote #215) on November 20, 2004.