New Boss Same as the Old Boss


A "two-fer" is how U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) termed his $6 million earmark for a defense contractor in his home state. He placed the earmark in a defense appropriations bill that became law in November. Despite not being requested by the Department of Defense, the funds are going for unmanned military aircraft research and development. John Pruett at POGO’s blog called it "Wicker’s Unmanned Aerial Pork." By terming it a two-fer, Wicker was bragging how his actions accomplished the duel goals of supporting national defense and job-creation back home. What he didn’t say is that his top campaign contributor was being rewarded handsomely in the deal as well. That’s the real "two-fer."

Last month, when Trent Lott jumped to K Street, Haley Barbour, Mississippi’s governor, appointed Wicker, a seven-term congressman from Tupelo, to the seat. Barbour said he chose Wicker because he shared Lott’s mainstream conservative philosophy. Maybe so…But he also got a guy, who like Lott, knows how to bring home the pork. Over the last several years, Wicker, as a member of the Appropriations Committee defense subcommittee, developed a close relationship with the Northern Virginia-based Aurora Flight Science. In 2005, Aurora opened an aircraft assembly plant in Wicker’s Northeast Mississippi district. And since then, the company has become Wicker’s top contributor, giving the then congressman $13,000 in 2006, according to Center for Responsive Politics data. Aurora has flown the congressman and staff on a private jet from Washington to Mississippi to attend a company event. And in 2006, Wicker’s chief of staff left to be Aurora’s lobbyist. And according to research by Taxpayers for Common Sense, Wicker submitted a $5 million earmark for Miltec Research and Technology, another defense-related company based in his district. Miltec gave Wicker $7,000 in 2006.

In 2005, Lott bragged about his ability to bring home the bacon. "The way I do it is, I fold them into bills where you can’t find it…I’ve been around here long enough to know how to bury it." Congress’ new ethics rules have made it harder to fold things into bills where no one can find them. Lucky for Wicker, he doesn’t seem all that concerned about hiding his pork scalps.