By Thomas Phippen
While Republicans have successfully passed tax reform and a temporary spending bill, conservatives in Congress are still criticizing the government for projects that appear to waste taxpayer money.
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake released a part of a special Christmas-themed wastebook Friday, highlighting projects like subsidies for a reindeer slaughter house, dressing a man in a Santa Claus outfit as part of a traffic sting operation, and helping a confectioners trade association market candies and sweets.
“After years of playing secret Santa for special interests, the U.S. national debt now surpasses $20 trillion, and for that, Congress deserves a lump of coal,” Flake said in a statement.
In one project, the Economic Development Association provided $1.8 million earlier in December to help a small Alaska town boost a reindeer slaughterhouse’s marketing of reindeer meat. Mekoryuk, Alaska, hopes the “funding boost will help it expand sales of its reindeer meat” to the rest of the state and even down to the rest of the U.S. The town owns about 2,000 reindeer, and last year slaughtered 41, the Anchorage Daily News reports.
A program in Riverside County, California, received a $153,000 grant from the Department of Transportation to set up an undercover traffic sting to ticket drivers who ignored crosswalk signs. Police put a decoy pedestrian dressed as Santa to make him more visible, and watched drivers go through the crosswalk without stopping.
During the operation on Dec. 12, police handed out 10 citations to drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians, seven for talking on a cell phone while driving, one for driving without a license, and one for an illegal U-turn, according to Riverside Sheriffs Department.
“It’s kind of good for PR,” a department official said, adding that some drivers would stop and wave at the santa.
Riverside used taxpayer money to conduct a similar sting in past years, and dressed someone in a gingerbread man costume as a decoy in 2012. “With the sting operations occurring at some of the very same sites over and over and year after year, perhaps the federal funding could be put towards more permanent traffic calming measures instead of sending costumed characters into the street to dodge the parade of careless drivers,” Flake’s wastebook suggests.
The largest item on Flake’s wastebook is a $1.3 million Department of Agriculture grant to the National Confectioners Association (NCA) to promote companies who make chocolate, candy, gum and mints. The grant, awarded for 2018, matches up to 50 percent of costs for promotional activities “including advertising, sample shipments, public relations, seminars, certain publication expenditures and many trade show-related expenses.”
NCA’s members include sugar giants like The Hershey Company, Nestlé USA, Mars, Russell Stover Chocolates, and Tootsie Roll Industries, Inc.
Flake will continue to highlight other wasteful spending projects in the coming days, a spokesperson for his office told The Daily Caller News Foundation.