Pete Sessions and his dirigible earmark

PETE SESSIONS AND HIS DIRIGIBLE EARMARK…. Rep. Pete Sessions (R) of Texas, the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, probably wants to focus his energies right now on recruiting and fundraising. He may want to take a moment, however, to explain his support for this earmark from last year.

[Sessions] steered a $1.6 million earmark for dirigible research to an Illinois company whose president acknowledges having no experience in government contracting, let alone in building blimps.

What the company did have: the help of Adrian Plesha, a former Sessions aide with a criminal record who has made more than $446,000 lobbying on its behalf.

While lawmakers routinely support earmarks for their home district and/or state, this particular measure has nothing to do with Sessions’ Dallas-area district. The company, Jim G. Ferguson & Associates, is based in a Chicago suburb. It has an office in Texas, but it’s 300 miles from Sessions’ district.

What’s more, when Sessions submitted the earmark, he used a Dallas address for the company, but it was actually the address of a friend of one of the company’s executives.

It looks a little suspicious. The leaders of Jim G. Ferguson & Associates admit they have no background in aviation or defense, and no expertise in engineering or research. It’s why it seems odd that Sessions would direct $1.6 million to the company, most of which would go towards research and engineering on a dirigible project.

By all appearances, Ferguson was able to secure the funds thanks to Plesha, who worked for Sessions before becoming a lobbyist. (Plesha seems to have quite an interesting background, including lying to the Federal Election Commission, which was investigating a scheme he launched to lie to voters during a campaign he helped run.)

It’s an interesting story, which Sessions should probably feel compelled to respond to. Given his avowed opposition to earmarks — he’s called them “a symbol of a broken Washington to the American people” — Sessions’ support for this one seems worthy of some follow-up.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.