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Today the Arizona PIRG Education Fund released a new report highlighting the potential influence of campaign giving on transportation funding decisions at the state and federal level. Written with data not previously released, Greasing the Wheels: the Crossroads of Campaign Money and Transportation Policy looks at transportation funding and campaign contributions both in Arizona and across the nation.
Key findings of the report include:
- In 2008, just a few months after the tragic Minneapolis bridge collapse which killed thirteen people and sparked alarm and outrage across the country, Congress directed only 74 of the 704 highway projects earmarked in the transportation appropriations bill to repair or maintain a bridge, tunnel, or overpass. Most of the $570 million went for new highways and other new construction.
- In 2008, 181 bridges, or 2.46%, of the total bridges in Arizona were rated as structurally deficient, and two earmarks were requested by members of Congress for bridge repairs in that year’s appropriations bill.
- In 2008, highway interests contributed $76,159 to state candidates, $8,893,338 to federal candidates, and received nine earmarks totaling $6,920,000 in Arizona. Nationally, highway interests gave over $133 million to candidates for both federal and state office.
According to Jesse Victor, the Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s Transportation Associate, “The data from Greasing the Wheels suggests that elected officials often overlook preventative maintenance projects especially when new capacity projects are encouraged by campaign contributions. Transportation money should be spent on projects that produce real results over the long haul – reducing our dependence on oil, alleviating congestion, improving safety, and benefiting the economy.”
The report points out campaign contributions from highway interests could have financed the winning campaigns of almost one-in-ten senators or about 75 members of the U.S. House. According to the group, as highway interests target their gifts to “swing” votes and likely earmark sponsors, it is easy to see how this spending is potentially very influential.
The Arizona PIRG Education Fund recommends reform of current campaign finance policy in order to ensure the public interest is protected and that transportation decisions are made based on smart policy rather than on politics.
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