In his quest for West Virginia’s Senate seat, Republican John Raese frequently attacks “professional politicians’ out-of-control spending spree” as he promises voters that he’ll rein in the federal budget.
What the businessman-turned-politician leaves unspoken is that his own company has benefited from taxpayer spending. Greer Industries Inc. sold $2.7 million of products to the federal government and $29 million in raw materials to the state in the last five years.
Raese is among roughly two dozen Republican and Democratic candidates in this fall’s congressional elections who attack federal largess but have benefited from it through companies, employers or relatives who got contracts, grants or tax breaks, the Center for Public Integrity and the Huffington Post Investigative Fund have found.
Discrepancies between statement and deed, of course, are nothing new in politics. Because candidates assume that the public loathes excess federal spending, they rail against it. But the ubiquity of federal largess means there’s so much money out there, even those who hate it seem to benefit from it.
“Despite red-faced anger about government, it plays an increasingly important role in the lives of all Americans,” noted Lawrence Jacobs, a University of Minnesota political science professor. “A country that is now increasingly dependent on government is now increasingly hostile to government.”
The most common target of criticism has been the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Passed in February 2009, the stimulus promised to revitalize the economy by sending $787 billion around the country to create jobs and spur economic activity. Twenty-one months later, the role of government spending — and especially the stimulus — has become a flashpoint in elections around the country.