WASHINGTON – A sleepy Montana checkpoint along the Canadian border that sees about three travelers a day will get $15 million under President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan. A government priority list ranked the project as marginal, but two powerful Democratic senators persuaded the administration to make it happen.
Despite Obama's promises that the stimulus plan would be transparent and free of politics, the government is handing out $720 million for border upgrades under a process that is both secretive and susceptible to political influence. This allowed low-priority projects such as the checkpoint in Whitetail, Mont., to skip ahead of more pressing concerns, according to documents revealed to The Associated Press.
It wasn't supposed to be that way. In 2004, Congress ordered Homeland Security to create a list, updated annually, of the most important repairs at checkpoints nationwide. But the Obama administration continued a Bush administration practice of considering other, more subjective factors when deciding which projects get money.
• A border station in Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's home state of Arizona is getting $199 million, five times more than any other border station. The busy Nogales checkpoint has required repairs for years but was not rated among the neediest projects on the master list reviewed by the AP. Napolitano credited her lobbying as Arizona governor for getting the project near the front of the line for funding under the Bush administration. All it needed was money, which the stimulus provided.
• A checkpoint in Laredo, Texas, which serves more than 55,000 travelers and 4,200 trucks a day, is rated among the government's highest priorities but was passed over for stimulus money.
• The Westhope, N.D., checkpoint, which serves about 73 people a day and is among the lowest-priority projects, is set to get nearly $15 million for renovations.
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Whitetail, Mont., an unincorporated town with a population of 71, saw only about $63,000 in freight cross its border last year. County unemployment is an enviable 4 percent.
"I think, absolutely, it's going to create jobs and build the infrastructure," Tester said.
Finally, some journalists doing some actual fucking investigative journalism...