Rep. K. Michael “Mike” Conaway (R-TX) has been among the most vocal critics of federal spending, claiming that massive cuts would actually create more jobs. But as he publicly pushed to stop “wasteful government spending,” he privately lobbied the National Park Service to turn the childhood home of former President George W. Bush into a National Park.
A ThinkProgress review of legislative correspondence with the U.S. Department of the Interior revealed that on August 27, 2012, Conaway wrote Secretary Ken Salazar to request a “reconnaissance Survey” of a potential new national park location. Conaway’s letter asked that the National Park Service look at the possibility of adding the George W. Bush childhood home to the Park Service system.
Conaway’s official biography claims he has “the credibility to be a vocal proponent in reducing the national debt,” and thinks Congress must make “tough choices” to balance the budget. Last week, Conway criticized the cost-neutral investments proposed in President Obama’s State of the Union, saying: “Halting the rise in borrowing isn’t enough; we must learn to live within our means and break our dependence on deficit spending.”
But Conaway, who was chief financial officer in the 1980’s for Bush Exploration, George W. Bush’s failed oil business, apparently makes an exception to his opposition to unnecessary government spending in the case of his longtime friend and former boss.
Beyond the cost of conducting the survey itself, every new park location means an new annual cost added to the Park Service budget. The John F. Kennedy National Historic Site, for example, receives more than $500,000 annually. The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site receives more than $4 million in public funds each year. While protecting important historical landmarks and other public lands is hardly wasteful spending, it seems odd that Conaway wants to “spend what we do not have” to preserve this of all historical spots.
It is ironic that someone who is so concerned about reducing government spending would push for government funds to go to a federal takeover of the boyhood home of Bush — the President who vastly increased government spending, turned a surplus into a $1.4 trillion budget deficit, and caused many of the economic problems America from which is only beginning to recover.
While Conaway’s quest to turn Bush’s former house into a National Park has not yet succeeded, he did successfully rename a Midland, Texas, court house after Presidents George W. and George H.W. Bush in late 2012.
Conaway’s office did not respond to a request for comment.