First, the Cornhusker Kickback; Now, the Kentucky Kickback . . . and Lautenberg Loot

Published October 17, 2013

The infamous Cornhusker Kickback that helped get Obamacare enacted into law and effectively ended Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson’s political career has now been joined by the Kentucky Kickback in the checkered legislative history of the health care law.

Tucked into the “deal” to end the government shutdown, raise the debt ceiling and keep Obamacare intact is an additional $2 billion-plus of spending for a dam in Republican Senate Leader and lead negotiator Mitch McConnell’s home state.

McConnell incredibly claims no knowledge of how this earmark got into the bill, and his staff pointed to equally politically beleaguered Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander as the person who put it into the law.

As a personal disclaimer, I worked for Senator McConnell’s wife, Secretary Elaine L. Chao, for two and a half years at the Department of Labor. Chao will go down in history as the greatest Labor Secretary, as she imposed budget restraint on the Department, implemented union transparency laws that increased union leadership accountability to their membership, and overturned a Department-wide culture that favored organized labor over job creation.

I like and respect Secretary Chao, but the audacity of the Kentucky Kickback cannot be swept under the rug.

Symbol of All That’s Wrong

It symbolizes everything that is wrong with Washington, D.C. and will likely become this election cycle’s equivalent of the “Bridge to Nowhere” in ads run against McConnell and Senate Republicans by his deal-making partner, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV).

In fact, McConnell’s in-state and D.C. political opponents could not have asked for a better present than this government-works pork. It is almost like he was set up, but we know he wasn’t.

$174K for Senator’s Multimillionaire Widow

Even more incredible than the McConnell pork is the $174,000 gift in the legislation that was bestowed to the widow of New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, who died in June. The “destitute” widow was left with “only” a $100 million-plus fortune, and when you are spending other people’s money, Harry Reid and friends couldn’t resist giving her a little gift.  After all, it is other people’s money.

The largesse was but a small pittance for her and the federal government, but it totaled more than the average annual salary of three American workers. 

Over the next days and weeks, America will be subjected to constant recaps of the budget fight, with the pundits trying to set the winners and losers firmly in the borg-like D.C. collective mind for use against those who dare buck the system. 

Vindictiveness and Venality

Few will note that the real loser is the D.C. political establishment – an establishment whose veneer was stripped away, revealing a president who is vindictive and venal, establishment Republicans who attempted to tear apart those who actually tried to keep the promises they made in their campaign brochures, and a sneering Harry Reid who attacked military veterans, furloughed government workers, and dismissed children with cancer, showing the system’s disdain for those who rely upon it.  

For the public, November 2014 cannot get here soon enough.

Rick Manning ([email protected]) is the vice president of public policy and communications for Americans for Limited Government. Used with permission of