U.S. Sen Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, is on a roll. Sunday he was one of three Senate Republicans voting for a $1.1 trillion spending bill full of his earmarks. Monday he sent out a press release attaching a letter to the NASA inspector general. In pertinent part, the letter said this:
I am writing with serious concerns regarding the Augustine Commission staff, their vocation, and their conduct while serving as Commission staff. It has come to my attention that several members are, in fact, federally registered lobbyists and that some of these individuals have taken direct advantage of their temporary roles on the Commission to further their personal business. Further, there are lobbyists that worked as Commission staff that are not even acknowledged in the report. This is both disturbing and unconscionable.
Now look at this list of the top 20 contributors to Shelby’s campaign fund, compiled by opensecrets.org:
|3||Balch & Bingham||$40,300||$30,300||$10,000|
|6||JPMorgan Chase & Co||$33,500||$26,500||$7,000|
|7||Future Research Corp||$28,500||$28,500||$0|
|14||Morris, Haynes & Hornsby||$22,800||$22,800||$0|
|20||Paulson & Co||$19,200||$19,200||$0|
The list includes numerous companies that benefit from NASA’s Ares and Constellation programs. The spending bill that got Shelby’s nod, by the way, included $1.5 billion for Ares and $3.46 billion for Constellation. That was a not-so-subtle way to force Obama to ignore the Augustine Commission recommendation that NASA scrap portions of the Ares program and instead use a commercial launch vehicle. The Ares alternative, almost without question, would be a ULA Delta IV or Atlas V, both made in Decatur.
Supporting Ares despite the Augustine Commission report is not irrational. For Shelby of all people to complain about lobbyist influence, however, is comical.