CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Former Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Jack Kemp has long been a critic of government spending practices, and he recently wrote a Townhall.com column that rapped Congress about public money ''now being squandered on pork and special-interest payoffs.'' But did the old Buffalo Bills quarterback-turned-politico-turned-consultant in his latest career shuffle really mean what he wrote. Or were his words about pork just beans?
Kemp, it turns out, is on the board of directors of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which is going to pick up another $2 million from Ohio taxpayers. The money will come via a capital appropriations measure approved Tuesday by a lame duck Ohio General Assembly.
Kemp's name shows up in a press release issued last week by the Freedom Center, which said its ''reconstituted" board has been expanded by 22 members. The press release is available at www.FreedomCenter.org. It might take a little hunting around the site to locate.
Kemp served as HUD secretary in Bush I and was an Upstate New York Congressman before entering the Cabinet. He had always sounded like an advocate for watching the public's checkbook. ''Americans instinctively distrust government, and they invariably will choose private solutions to problems whenever one is available. It is the job of conservatives to devise those private solutions that will raise prosperity, expand private ownership, increase personal freedom and shrink the size of government,'' he once said.
And this: "Shrinking the relative size of government entails limiting the overall growth of government spending while the private sector forges ahead with solutions that leave everyone better off."
A few years ago, in the 1990s, Kemp was in the Citizens Against Government Waste annual ''Pig Book" as a standout for complaining about elected officials who earmarked public funds for specific private sector and non-profit entities. He didn't like $3 million that was going to a frontier-Oregon Territory historical center, and $1.9 million for historic restoration and other municipal purposes on Mackinac Island, Mich. He pointed out that $1.36 million was headed to a stadium renovation project in U.S. Rep. John Murtha's district.
At the time, Kemp was HUD secretary and testified before Congress about his concerns. '"The practice of earmarking funds for specific private sector or nonprofit entities, or special purpose grants . . . is inconsistent with the requirement imposed on the Department -- at our request -- for the awarding of discretionary funds through fair and open competition based on clear and understandable funding criteria."
Oh, and there was this little matter of $2 million. It was going to restore the Liberty Theater and Lucas Theater, both in the historic district of Savannah, Ga. $2 million? Isn't that what the Freedom Center is going to get?