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You can say what you like about spending and pork, but delivering for the district by bringing home the bacon is a badge of honor for many members of Congress.
It's the reason why Rep. Tim Ryan's campaign boasts that the Niles Democrat "has secured a grand total of $116,838,763 to date and has an additional $27,095,000 pending in Fiscal Year 2010 spending bills.
"That means more money to help promote economic growth, strengthen America’s infrastructure and improve the quality of life in the Mahoning Valley," the statement adds, with an exclamation point.
More than $143 million is a lot of kapusta, or cabbage, as they might say in the valley.
PolitiFact Ohio asked Ryan’s staff to back up the figures, and the congressman's communications director, Heather McMahon, said they were actually outdated and understated.
She said that appropriations for the 17th District, "as secured by Congressman Tim Ryan in his eight years in office," total $140,133,763 -- with an additional $40,200,000 pending in the Fiscal Year 2011 budget.
And, she said, "The figures do not include other grants and funds that Congressman Ryan has assisted in bringing to the 17th District" -- notably a $20 million Department of Transportation grant signed last summer for the Kent Central Gateway project.
Saying that Ryan has "secured" funding "means that the congressman submitted each project to the appropriate subcommittee as a piece of congressionally directed spending that has been attached to his name," McMahon said. "Projects that receive funding must be approved by subcommittee, the House appropriations committee, and also the full House."
The directed appropriations she is describing are better known as earmarks.
Ryan was well-positioned to secure them as a member since 2006 of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations and as a member of the defense appropriations subcommittee, another key panel. He topped the list of lawmakers who scored the highest dollar amounts in the House's defense bill for fiscal 2011, according to research by the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense and the newspaper The Hill.
Critics say earmarks contribute to runaway spending, and contend legislators can improperly use earmarks to enrich themselves. Ryan’s view is that earmarks are a way to direct federal dollars to worthwhile local projects and that they account for a tiny percentage of the federal budget.
Ryan's office provided an overview of funding he secured in nine budget categories, with example projects. Defense topped the list, with a total of $61,154,000 passed and signed. The money included $17.5 million in earmarks for fiscal 2007, which Ryan inserted into a Defense Department spending bill, for Lockheed Martin's development in Akron of a high-altitude airship.
We rate Ryan's statement as True.
Rep. Tim Ryan, campaign website, accessed Nov. 17, 2010
Rep. Tim Ryan official congressional website, accessed Nov. 17, 2010
Interview with Ryan communications director Heather McMahon, Nov. 9, 2010
E-mail exchanges with Heather McMahon, Nov. 9 and Nov. 15, 2010
Center for Responsive Politics, Tim Ryan: Earmarks
The Hill, "Defense bill pet projects cut by half," July 29, 2010
The Plain Dealer, "Ohio lawmakers secure earmarks, draw criticism," June 06, 2008
CSPAN, Congressman Tim Ryan Makes the Case for Earmarks, posted to YouTube Feb. 29, 2008
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