Fox News' Bret Baier asserted that Rep. David Obey is "under fire" because the economic stimulus bill provides more than $2 billion for the National Park Service, "the industry for which his son lobbies," and cited a Washington Times article reporting that, in Baier's words, "a spokeswoman for Congressman Obey's office says nepotism was not a factor." But Baier did not mention that the Times article also reported the spokeswoman saying the funding for parks "was included at the request of [Rep.] Norm Dicks." Nor did Baier note that Dicks has repeatedly made similar appropriations requests for national parks in previous appropriations bills.
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On the January 29 edition of Fox News' Special Report, anchor Bret Baier asserted that House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI) "is under fire about something specific in the stimulus bill: money that goes to the industry for which his son lobbies. The stimulus gives two and a quarter billion dollars to national parks." Baier then cited a January 29 Washington Times article about the alleged conflict of interest and said that "a spokeswoman for Congressman Obey's office says nepotism was not a factor. Quote: 'There is wide support for these funds.' " However, Baier did not mention that the Times article also reported that Obey spokeswoman Kirstin Brost said the funding for parks "was included at the request of [Rep.] Norm Dicks, Washington Democrat. ... Mr. Dicks is chairman of the subcommittee on interior, environment and related agencies." A January 29 Associated Press article -- also published before Special Report aired -- similarly reported that Brost said "the parks proposal came from" Dicks, and quoted Dicks' chief of staff saying: "I will assure you this was the highest priority for Norm. This has been a passion of Norm's for many years."
Further, the level of funding allocated for the National Parks in the stimulus bill is similar to what Dicks has included in his prior appropriations requests. According to the full text of Obey's chairman's mark of the stimulus bill, under the legislation, the National Park Service would receive $1.7 billion for infrastructure, $200 million for the National Mall, and $100 million for the Park Services' Centennial Challenge Matching Grant Program. According to Dicks' June 11, 2008, statement about his subcommittee's recommendations for the FY 2009 Interior and the Environment Appropriations bill:
The bill includes $2.6 billion for the National Parks. This includes a $158 million increase in funding for the operational budgets of our parks. Every one of the 391 units of the Park Service will benefit from this increase. The 2009 bill continues the multi-year effort initiated in 2008 to restore the parks for the Centennial of the National Park Service in 2016. ...The bill also includes an increase of $175 million to begin a multi-year effort to revitalize the National Mall area of the nation's capital, an area often referred to as "America's Front Yard."
Dicks similarly requested $2.512 billion for the National Park Service for fiscal year 2008, in his first year as chairman of the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.
From the January 29 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
BAIER: And now some fresh pickings from the "Political Grapevine": A top Democrat is under fire about something specific in the stimulus bill: money that goes to the industry for which his son lobbies. The stimulus gives two and a quarter billion dollars to national parks.
The Washington Times reports Craig Obey, son of Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, is the chief lobbyist for the National Parks Conservation Association.
Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California says, quote, "It really does beg the question of: Is this an earmark, is this a family connection, and should it have been disclosed, at least in the spirit of what the Democrats said they wanted? And the answer is: It should have been disclosed."
A spokeswoman for Congressman Obey's office says nepotism was not a factor. Quote: "There is wide support for these funds." As we heard earlier, the question of just how simulative this and other items are for the economy is really still being fought out on Capitol Hill.