Racer to the bottom?


The NASCAR racer appropriated by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to publicize the DTV Transition wound up as a heap of bolts in its first of three races. Now the race car affair has received another dubious distinction: It brought Martin the October Porker of the Month Award from Citizens Against Government Waste. But was it a fair award?

CAGW kicks off its condemnation with a false “fact.” It says that Yates Racing and driver David Gilliland were hired for $355K despite the fact that “…the commission inundated networks with paid announcements for months.” In point of fact, when it comes to paid advertising, the FCC has done very little other than make a variety of canned PSAs available to any broadcaster who will run them. The heavy lifting in the advertising department has come from trade organizations, primarily the National Association of Broadcasters.

The decision still drew questions, and Democratic Commissioner Jonathan was happy to pile on, saying “This doesn’t seem like the most efficient use of resources. While NASCAR is the biggest spectator sport in the country, it seems absurd to spend taxpayer money for three races only four months before the switch, following months of alternative advertising. Chairman Martin not only chose to misuse government funds, but did so without consulting all of the FCC commissioners.”

CAGW did fuel speculation that Martin tossed a bone to NC-based Yates, as well as a giving a tip of the hat to the entire NASCAR-crazed state, with a view toward a future run for political office there. Martin is a NC native.
CAGW summed up, “For using taxpayer funds on an unnecessary project, diverting focus from more important telecommunications concerns, recklessly spending without consulting with his peers, and attempting to use his influence to shore up his own political prospects, CAGW names FCC Chairman Kevin Martin its October 2008 Porker of the Month.”

RBR/TVBR observation: When it comes to questionable government expenditures, this certainly constitutes low-hanging fruit. And maybe Martin does have ulterior motives, although it’s hard to see this being a major factor in a campaign of any kind. The bottom line is that it is a drop in the bucket in terms of the cash tied to the DTV transition, not to mention the billions upon billions of dollars being put to ill use at the behest of politicians and bureaucrats daily. If this is the best they could come up with, it says a lot more about the grandstanding practices and trivial pursuits of CAGW than it does about Martin.