It isn’t exactly a second Teapot Dome incident like the one that scandalized the Harding administration in 1922. In fact, it isn’t a teapot that is drawing the modern-day scrutiny of Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn at all, but a coffee pot – or at least a museum in Pennsylvania shaped like a coffee pot.
In 1922 the U.S. Secretary of the Interior was found guilty of accepting money from those he leased land to in Wyoming, i.e., the Teapot Dome, for the purpose of drilling oil. In Sen. Coburn’s estimation, the manner in which U.S. Transportation Department funds are being expended today also borders on the criminal.
According to the Associated Press, for evidence of waste Coburn brought up $100,000 of transportation funds reportedly used to renovate a coffee pot shaped snack stand that today serves as a roadside museum in Pennsylvania. But according to the executive director of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, the money was raised from private funds.
Coburn’s defense is the coffee pot museum claims on its website it received federal funding. According to the AP, other projects Coburn targeted are bogus because they do not qualify under Transportation Department rules, were already turned down, or are still pending approval.
Nevertheless, Sen. Coburn is on the right track in his battle to safeguard taxpayers against government spending run amok. A case can be made that, even if some of the projects were denied funding, it says something about the process that those asking thought it worth a shot to ask in the first place.
Examples include a foundation for riding saddles in Indiana wanting Transportation Department money for a factory to make saddletrees; Toledo, Ohio’s request for $500,000 to renovate a lighthouse; and $16.2 million by the Texas Department of Transportation for money to restore the Battleship Texas.
These requests have nothing to do with making roads and bridges safer. Even if they were denied or are still pending approval, they represent a kind of smoke beneath which there is undoubtedly fire.
— The Ada News