Washington—Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin on Thursday was named Porker of the Month by Citizens Against Government Waste for using taxpayer money to sponsor a NASCAR driver from North Carolina, Martin's home state.
"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," CAGW said in a press release.
Last week, Martin announced that the FCC would pay $355,000 to sponsor stock car racer David Gilliland's No. 38 car, owned by Yates Racing, in three races to raise public awareness about the Feb. 17, 2009 switch to digital TV.
Gilliland's Ford crashed near the end of last Sunday's Sprint Cup race in Martinsville, Va.
“Even though the [FCC] has inundated networks with paid announcements for months, Martin considered it necessary to use additional taxpayer dollars to pay for the car and driver to bear slogans such as ‘Is Your TV ready for Digital?’” CAGW said. “While spreading public awareness over the transition from analog to digital broadcasting is important, the National Association of Broadcasters has stated that the public is already largely aware of the switch."
“This doesn't seem like the most efficient use of resources,” the CAGW statement quoted Democratic FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein saying.
Mary Diamond, a Martin spokeswoman in the FCC's Media Bureau, said: "Millions of Americans enjoy NASCAR motor sports. It is America's most popular spectator sport. These fans may not be Commissioner Adelstein's associates but many are at risk of losing their TV signals as a result of the transition."
CAGW also intimated that Martin had selfish political motives for funding a NASCAR driver.
“Some have suggested that Martin's decision to move forward with this sponsorship is linked to his political future in the state. Gilliland is based in North Carolina, while NASCAR maintains offices in four North Carolina cities. Additionally, Martin chose Wilmington, North Carolina as the test site for the switch to DTV," CAGW said.
CAGW described its Porker of the Month award as "a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers."
Recent recipients include Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Rep. John Mica (R-Fl.), and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.).
“Considering Martin's ability to sequester taxpayer money for his prospective constituents, he is well on his way to becoming a successful legislative porker," CAGW said.