Taxpayer Rip-Off of the Week: $250,000 for Mojave Bird Study

Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) may be the Senate minority leader, but he still manages to find the time to rip off American taxpayers. As a ranking member on the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee, he secured over $79 million from the 2006 Energy and Water Appropriations Act (H.R. 2419) for his home state, including $250,000 for the Mojave Bird Study.

The concern motivating the study was an alleged threat posed by the Pine Tree Wind Farm to red-tailed hawks and other birds that fly through the Mojave Desert area. According to the Los Angeles Weekly, an environmental impact report published in July of 2004 "acknowledged potential harm to red-tailed hawks, but estimated that Pine Tree’s eighty turbines would kill only four raptors per year (the average among all North American wind farms is 2.19 deaths per year) — not much impact to a healthy population."

To make matters worse, the local chapter of the Audubon Society spearheading the attack on the wind farm offered to "pay for a thorough study of the Pine Tree region’s song birds," but the government insisted on conducting its own study at the taxpayers’ expense.

This particular earmark is so outrageous, even the locals are objecting. An April editorial in the Las Vegas Review-Journal had these reproachful words to say in response: "So long as each member of Congress keeps getting thanked and re-elected by local constituents for hauling home his or her personal bucket of pork — even though most of these allocations exceed constitutional authority and have no benefit to 98% of the population, who might very well have had better uses for their share of that $29 billion — we can expect the 17th annual Pig Book to come out right on schedule, fat as ever, again next year."

Senator Reid’s actions are evidence of what happens when the insiders in Washington get a little too comfortable with their positions of power. It seems our politicians are suffering from a bad case of selective amnesia, conveniently forgetting that the money they dispense so freely is not theirs to burn.

Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee voted in favor of spending tax dollars on the Mojave Bird Study (Senate Roll Call Vote #321) on November 14, 2005.