- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2024

The federal government is on a spending spree and you’re paying for it, but President Biden is taking credit.

The White House is urging federal agencies to put Mr. Biden’s name on signs wherever they spend money. His team has even provided templates to show how to give him top billing.

Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican, says it’s unseemly and may be against the law.

“Folks, political campaign signs are not infrastructure. It’s obvious the real intent of these posters is to pave the way for Biden’s reelection,” the senator said.

In a letter to the White House, she said the signs are “misusing official government resources for political purposes,” violate “the spirit” of the Highway Beautification Act that restricts billboards along federal roads, and skirt a law she wrote requiring the government to disclose the costs of taxpayer-funded projects.

Signs appearing at projects across the country are drawing attention.

Doug Emhoff, husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, took to social media this month to highlight a sign he saw. He posed for a photo with the sign, which was stabilized by sandbags. It said the construction equipment working in the background was “funded by President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”

“During my travels across the country, I keep running into these signs. Seems like BIL is a BFD,” Mr. Emhoff wrote.

The White House also has encouraged the placement of signs near projects funded by Democrats’ 2022 budget-climate law, a 2022 science spending bill and the pandemic relief package Mr. Biden pushed through Congress during his first weeks in office in 2021.

The Washington Times has reached out to the White House for this report.

If Mr. Biden is going to slap his name on his spending, Ms. Ernst said, he ought to own the bungles, too.

That includes San Francisco’s mass transit rail extension project, which is billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.

“This gravy train is on track to be one of the most expensive transit projects in the world,” the senator wrote. “That certainly makes it qualify as a historical attraction deserving of a sign for public recognition.”

She suggested that “billion dollar boondoggle” signs be posted at the seven electric vehicle charging stations built over the past two years out of a $7.5 billion pot of money, or $1 billion per station.

Taking credit for taxpayer-funded projects is an ancient art.

When Athenians objected to building the Parthenon using public money, Pericles said he would pay for it out of his own pocket and plaster his name all over the works. That threat was enough to sway the Athenians, according to Plutarch, who said the assembly then urged Pericles to spend as much public money as was needed.

In the U.S., politicians have been claiming credit for public spending since the beginning of pork barrel projects. Members of Congress regularly issue press releases celebrating money they say they have helped secure for projects in their states and districts.

Presidents seem to have implicit limits.

When President Obama oversaw the Recovery Act, which spent tens of billions of dollars in infrastructure after the 2008 Wall Street collapse, his administration posted signs touting the source of the money but without mentioning Mr. Obama.

“Putting America to Work: Project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” read the standard sign.

Mr. Biden’s signs, by contrast, put his name front and center.

The White House guidance to agencies gives this template: “Project funded by President Joe Biden’s [name of law].”

Ms. Ernst said that amounts to “treating taxpayer money like campaign donations.”

She pointed out that she voted against the infrastructure law, which drew some Republican support, and the budget-climate law, which was passed with only Democratic votes.

She said signs themselves aren’t infrastructure.

Ms. Ernst demanded that the White House disclose the number and cost of the Biden signs. She also asked for an analysis of whether the signs constitute illegal taxpayer-funded campaign materials and whether they violate the Highway Beautification Act.

The White House told CNN last year that it expects hundreds of thousands of signs to be erected.

That includes along roads, near bridges, at dams and in an empty field in Montana, where CNN reported that Mr. Biden is claiming credit for a Superfund site cleanup.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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