Buying Reelection on the Taxpayer’s Dime

Washington Post reporters Jerry Markon and Alice Crites deserve kudos for turning the spotlight on the Obama administration’s use of taxpayer funds to curry voter favor in the critical battleground state of Ohio. Markon and Crites cite a laundry list of largess that has poured into the state in recent years:

[T]he state’s portion of the $2.3 billion in clean-energy manufacturing tax credits was tens of millions of dollars more than the slices that went to other swing states…

In high-speed rail, another administration priority, Ohio also fared well. The White House in 2010 awarded the state $400 million to resume passenger train service between Cincinnati, Cleveland and other cities, a service that had ended four decades earlier…

When Obama visited Mansfield in August, media outlets and Republicans in the state pointed out that he would be flying into an Air National Guard base where his budget had proposed cutting a fleet of aircraft and about 800 positions. By day’s end — after base officials vowed to position the threatened planes so Obama could see them from Air Force One — the White House said it would “find a mission” for the guard unit. A White House spokesman said Monday that Obama remains “absolutely” committed to finding that mission…

During his first visit to Ohio as president in March 2009, Obama brought more than $1 billion in stimulus money. With Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., he showed up for Columbus police graduation ceremonies and highlighted funding for everything from law enforcement to roads…

When it came to Obama’s proposal to invest $1 billion to create a network of ‘manufacturing ­innovation institutes,’ Congress declined to approve the funding. The administration forged ahead, funding a pilot program that will focus on digital-based manufacturing. The winner of the $30 million pilot grant was a consortium that said it would base the operation in Youngstown, Ohio…

Ohio has been a big winner in Race to the Top, the administration’s signature education reform initiative, taking home the fourth-highest total in federal grants of any state.

Then there are the Small Business Administration subsidies to Ohio businesses:

Brian Reis, who runs a company making potato chips and other snack food about 100 miles from Cleveland, says he is grateful for the attention. Reis, a Republican, has received three Small Business Administration loans totaling $3.9 million since Obama took office, along with a $2 million loan during the Bush administration. In August, the agency’s head, Karen Mills, toured his facility for the launch of a kit that allows people to flavor their own gourmet potato chips. Last year, Biden singled him out in a speech near Cleveland…

Then there was Joe Miceli, head of Miceli Dairy Products in Cleveland, which makes ricotta and other cheeses. He was the first to benefit from a new law that raised the limit for SBA loans for manufacturing from $2.5 million to $5.5 million, winning $5.49 million in December 2010. Two months later, Obama cited the loan at an event with small-business leaders in Cleveland. This year, the agency has approved 2,726 loans for Ohio businesses. That is nearly 500 more than Florida, a state with 7.3 million more people.

Uh-oh. Does Mrs. Obama know that the federal government is subsidizing companies that produce potato chips and fatty cheeses? Did the SBA not get the message from the First Lady’s office that the plebs are to be consuming leafy greens? But wisecracks aside, is entrepreneurship in this country so hard up that Uncle Sam needs to backstop loans to potato chip manufacturers?

Of course, the administration’s spokespeople all swear that the flow of federal funds into Ohio had nothing to do with politics. And perhaps little or none of the money was directly earmarked by the White House. But anyone who has ever spent more than a month working for the chief executive of a governmental unit knows that the king’s high servants earn their keep by making sure to maximize the political benefits of taxpayer handouts.

I would know.