Taxpayer Rip-Off of the Week: $200,000 for California Mining Museum

Thanks to Senator Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) California’s museums are doing very well for themselves this year. Patrons of the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in particular owe Sen. Feinstein special gratitude for the hundreds and thousands of dollars she has brought home. The 2006 Transportation Bill (H.R. 3058) allotted $200,000 to the museum, but the same museum received $258,000 in 2001, $290,000 in 2002, and $243,000 in 2003, a package totaling $991,000.

Hidden away in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in historic Mariposa prides itself on its geologic diversity. Beginning in 1880, the museum’s collection now displays over 13,000 objects including “mining artifacts, rare specimens of crystalline gold in its many forms, as well as beautiful gem and mineral specimens from California and around the world.” In 1983, the collection was moved to Mariposa from its first home in San Francisco.

According to its website, “the museum is dedicated to helping families and students learn about the importance of mining and minerals to our history, our environment, and our future.” The museum offers a range of activities from its Junior Ranger Program to tours relating to geology and the gold rush. Each spring, the museum also sponsors an annual gem and mineral show with exhibits, speakers, food, activities, and dealers of beautiful minerals from around the world.

Now there are hundreds, if not thousands, of interesting and educational museums throughout the country, but the federal government is not responsible for funding each and every one of them. Nor is it appropriate for Congressmen to slip secret earmarks into appropriation bills in the middle of night, forcing taxpayers in Rhode Island and every other state to pay for a mining museum in Mariposa, California.

Clearly, our Representatives down in Washington have lost sight of the reason we sent them to Washington in the first place. We didn’t send them to Washington so they could fuel their political careers, but to fight for the taxpayers and to protect their hard-earned money from the special interest political machines. Clearly, they have failed miserably at this most important task.

Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee voted in favor of spending tax dollars on the California Mining and Mineral Museum (Senate Roll Call Vote #264) on October 20, 2005.