Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Rogers Still “Prince of Pork” With Non-Profit Empire, Says Ethics Group

Calling him the “Prince of Pork”, an ethics watchdog group says U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has funneled more than $236 million in federal funds to several non-profit organizations that he created.

In March, Rogers swore off earmarks and joined a GOP pledge to cut spending and reduce the deficit, saying America was at a crossroad. As political observers noted, the 14-term congressman was a well-known defender of steering federal funding back to his district, but like many longtime GOP leaders (re: U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.) he publicly denounced the practice after Tea Party candidates were elected to Congress.

After a three-month investigation, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington claims that Rogers has found ways to circumvent the earmark ban, and has established a non-profit “empire”.

From CREW:

Rep. Rogers sits at the center of an interconnected web that includes Kentucky nonprofit groups, a bank he partially owns, and several companies he has supported with federal money. These entities have strong ties to Rep. Rogers and to each other, and help extend the congressman’s influence in his district.

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Hand Transplant Doctors Prepare For Breidenbach’s Departure

Hand transplants and treatments will continue as usual in Louisville, despite the impending departure of the program’s lead surgeon.

Dr. Warren Breidenbach will leave the Kleinert Kutz Hand Care Center at Jewish Hospital later this year for a job at the University of Arizona. He helped pioneer the hand transplant procedure, and he says he hopes to continue his work in Tuscon.

“There’s tremendous opportunity, but there are some areas that they’re lacking now,” he says. “Some of my friends, my accountant, my dog, are telling me I’m crazy. But I’m going for that reason: change and opportunity.”

Breidenbach will teleconference with doctors in Louisville and fly back to the city regularly until a replacement in found.

“There’s a trend now within universities to try and work together,” he says. “I am trying to join that trend.”

Transplant programs often depend on federal grants. Breidenbach says he doesn’t think the growth of a medical center in Arizona will put any of Louisville’s funding at risk, but all federal funds may be harder to secure if a ban on earmarks is imposed.

“The future is getting the financing for it, and that’s what we have to look at,” says Dr. Joseph Kutz. “Fortunately, through congress we have been able to get our grants to carry through. What the congress is going to do now, I don’t know.”

Local News Politics

Yarmuth Says Earmark Moratorium Would Slow Funding Process

Many Republicans in Washington have come out in support of a moratorium on earmarks, but it remains to be seen if the earmarks will stop, or government spending will decline.

The GOP could block earmarks coming out of the House when it takes control of that chamber next year. In the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has reversed his position, and is calling for a moratorium in his caucus.

But Third District Congressman John Yarmuth says he thinks a complete moratorium is unlikely. It would give the executive branch total control of appropriations, he says, and that would slow down the flow of money, as federal agencies seek to award grants to projects that would otherwise have received earmarks.

“Kentucky has always done fairly well, but then, Kentucky has done well because of the earmark process,” he says. “That’s a concern 435 members of congress now have.”

Senate Democrats have not backed a moratorium, and Yarmuth says that body could still send appropriations bills that include earmarks to the House for approval.

Local News Next Louisville Politics

McConnell Endorses Earmarks Moratorium

U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky says he will support a moratorium on earmarks in the next Congress, a reversal of course for one of the staunchest defenders of the practice.

Earmarks are funding requests for local projects that lawmakers insert into legislation.

In a Senate floor speech Monday, McConnell, the Senate Republican Leader, said he’s not apologizing for supporting earmarks, but sees that Americans have come to view the abuse of the practice as a symbol of waste and out-of-control government spending.

“The only way we will be able to turn the corner and save our future is if elected leaders like me make the difficult decisions that voters are clearly asking us to make,” he said.

GOP leaders in the House have already called for a ban on earmarks, which is also one of the planks in the Tea Party platform.