Factcheck: Sen. Coburn Falsely Claims That The Government Spent $100,000 To Renovate A Giant Coffee Pot

While Republican lawmakers like to continually blast President Obama over government spending, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) lives for it. This summer, Coburn released a report in which he weaves an “outrageous” tale of how Washington spends one out of every 10 taxpayer dollars on “wasteful” infrastructure projects at a time when states “don’t have enough money to repair structurally deficient bridges.”

Blocking a transportation funding bill last month, Coburn pointed to what he claimed was government waste on 39 projects, including “turtle tunnels” and $100,000 to restore a giant coffee pot. But if he had actually bothered to check, he’d find that — as with the GOP’s $16 muffin myth — the claim that the government is renovating giant kitchenware is far from the truth. The AP reports:

The Lincoln Highway 200-Mile Roadside Museum in south-central Pennsylvania. It was described as receiving $300,000 in 2004 for signs, murals, colorful vintage gas pumps painted by local artists and refurbishing of a former roadside snack stand from 1927 that’s shaped like a giant coffeepot.

But no transportation aid was spent on the coffeepot’s $100,000 restoration, said Olga Herbert, executive director of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor. The money was raised entirely from preservation and civic organizations and local supporters.

“We did not use any of this $300,000 award for anything to do with the coffeepot,” she said. “It’s interesting that nobody from Sen. Coburn’s office called me about this.”

Coburn also listed $500,000 in federal funds for a lighthouse renovation in Toledo, Ohio when “no transportation dollars have been authorized or awarded” for the project. Another project he cited was a landscaping project to screen a junkyard in South Carolina. Again, had he checked, he would’ve seen that “the project was canceled year ago” and “no funds were awarded.”

Even the so-called “turtle tunnels” in Florida that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) railed against — “Don’t tell the people of Kentucky they need to finance every turtle tunnel and solar-panel company on some bureaucrat’s wish list in order to get their bridges fixed” — were not frivolous but a “significant safety issue” as turtles and wildlife were “getting flattened by cars as they tried to cross” the road. Coburn said this project “will require $6 million more to finish,” when in reality, “the project was finished in September 2010 and came in under budget at $3 million.”

The truth behind government spending, incidentally, is that President George W. Bush grossly outflanks President Obama in terms of new spending, with the Bush tax cuts gouging $1.8 billion from the budget. But rather than deal with the reality of deficit drivers like tax cuts, Republicans will continue to push these false “facts” about make-believe spending.