White House, Tom Coburn clash over stimulus projects

CHRIS CASTEEL, Washington Bureau Published: June 17, 2009
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WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Coburn released a report on Tuesday of 100 stimulus projects that he considers wasteful, but the White House hit back with the charge that some of the report is "just flat out wrong.”

Coburn, R-Muskogee, cited projects nationwide, ranging from a turtle crossing in Florida to a train station renovation in Pennsylvania.

Coburn’s top 10 wasteful projects include two in Oklahoma: a guardrail around the nearly waterless Lake Optima and a grant with strings attached for a wastewater treatment plant in Perkins.

"The American people have a right to know how their stimulus dollars are being spent,” Coburn said. "In too many cases, stimulus projects are wasting money we don’t have on things we don’t need.

"I opposed the stimulus bill because I was concerned that 80 to 90 percent of the spending would not be true stimulus. I hope I am proven wrong. Yet, our initial findings continue to show that taxpayers are not getting the value they deserve and need.”

But White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said "there are a number of entries throughout this report that are just simply wrong. This president has taken historic steps to ensure that there is adequate transparency and that this money is spent the way it’s intended to be used.”

Gibbs also said some projects had been canceled "based on our own looking into this.”

Optima Lake project
According to the administration, one of the canceled projects was the guardrail at Optima Lake in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Coburn and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, last week wrote a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers complaining about building a $1.15 million guardrail around a lake with no water.

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