Friday, April 07, 2006

Harry Reid's magic train

Don't you just wish you could zip back and forth from Disneyland to the Vegas strip? Let's hope so since you've already spent $54 million and haven't gone any further than planning studies and Harry Reid's campaign warchest.

But Reid has pressed ahead, earmarking $9 million between 2000 and 2004 and winning a $45 million authorization in last year's federal transportation bill. It's just one small example of how congressional leaders can keep projects alive and how difficult it will be for reformers to stamp out earmarks -- the hidden pots of cash that lawmakers tuck into spending bills for favorite projects or constituents.

MagLev, which uses the attraction and repulsion of powerful magnets to power a train hovering inches off the track, enjoyed a brief burst of federal support in the 1990s. Clintonites praised it as a new and efficient option for short-range travel. But since 2001 the Bush Administration has not sought funding for MagLev projects. "The Administration believes that the money could be better spent on other transportation needs," says Steven Kulm, a Federal Railroad Administration spokesman.

Poor Harry, he only wants what's best for us. Oh and his checkbook.
But Reid's faith in MagLev has been a plus for him: Companies and individuals tied to the project have given him $28,749 in campaign funds since 1999, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And with Ensign facing his first reelection campaign, MagLev fans are opening their checkbooks for him, to the tune of $23,248. For now, MagLev keeps hovering along.

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