Hal Rogers has some explaining to do

HAL ROGERS HAS SOME EXPLAINING TO DO…. Rep. Hal Rogers (R) was almost certainly the wrong choice to head the House Appropriations Committee in this Congress. It doesn’t even make sense — for all the emphasis on cutting, Rogers has developed quite a reputation for doling out ethically-dubious pork.

He spent $52 million for a National Center for Hometown Security, which happens to be located in his small hometown in Kentucky. It’s located near a local airport, which received $17 million from Rogers, despite the fact that it has no commercial flights in or out. The airport is down the road from Hal Rogers Parkway. Take a wild guess where the money came from for that project.

But some of Rogers’ spending raises questions that go beyond mere waste. Last year, he pushed through a $5 million earmark for wild cheetah conservation. Are there wild cheetahs in Kentucky? No, but his daughter works for a nonprofit called the Cheetah Conservation Fund.

What a coincidence.

As it turns out, it gets worse. Scrutiny of Rogers’ spending practices is raising new questions about the man House Republicans tapped to lead the powerful Appropriations Committee.

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the new chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, has funneled more than $236 million in federal funds since 2000 to a web of nonprofit groups he created back home in the Bluegrass State, according to a new report by an ethics watchdog group.

Another group of private firms linked to Rogers and the nonprofit companies received another $227 million in federal loans, grants and contracts during the same period, a three-month investigation by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) found.

Rogers’ family members, current and former aides, donors and business associates have benefited personally from the congressman’s largesse with federal dollars, according to the report.

I don’t mean to sound picky, but when a powerful politician uses his office — and our money — to directly benefit his friends and family, there’s a word that comes to mind. It’s generally known as “corruption.”

“Rep. Rogers sits at the center of an interconnected web that includes Kentucky nonprofit groups, a bank he partially owns, and several companies he has supported with federal money,” CREW said in its new report. “These entities have strong ties to Rep. Rogers and to each other, and help extend the congressman’s influence in his district.”

Not only does Rogers have some explaining to do, but it’d be especially nice to know why House Republican leaders rewarded Rogers with this committee chairmanship, and whether they’re concerned about his dubious spending practices.