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Flying Pork: The $17,000 Helicopter Drip Pan

Written by Gary North on May 22, 2012

Yes, my friends, it costs $17,000 for the Defense Department to buy a drip pan for helicopters. They normally cost $2,500. But not drip pans made in Kentucky.

But why should the defense department pay $17,000 for a drip pan made in Kentucky? Because of an earmark inserted into the budget. It was inserted by a Congressman from Mississippi.

Just kidding. It was inserted into the bill by a Congressman from Kentucky.

How much money are we talking about? Peanuts. A mere $6.5 million worth of drip pans.

I mean, who would notice, other than the New York Times?

The Kentucky company, Phoenix Products, got the job to produce the pans after Representative Harold Rogers, a Republican who is now the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, added an earmark to a 2009 spending bill. While the earmark came before restrictions were placed on such provisions for for-profit companies, its outlays have continued for the last three years.

The company’s owners are political contributors to the congressman, who has been called the “Prince of Pork” by The Lexington Herald-Leader for his history of delivering federal contracts to donors and others back home.

These drip pans are crucial to America’s mission, Mr. Rogers says.
“It’s important that Congress do what it can to provide our military with the best resources to ensure their safety and advance our missions abroad, while also saving taxpayer dollars wherever possible. These dripping pans help accomplish both of these goals.”

Drip, drip, drip: the solvency of the United States government drips away.

No one would have noticed, except for a competitor. The competitor took the complaint to Congress.

He got nowhere.

Then he took it to an organization with the most utopian name in Washington, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The group requested documents from the government under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Army turned over some information but said it did not have any specifications or designs for the drip pans that might explain the price. That was considered proprietary information held by Phoenix Products.

Mr. Rogers has an aide, of course. Aides are used to spin reporters. A reporter who is forced to deal with an aide is being sent a not-so-subtle message: “You are irrelevant. So is your newspaper. The Congressman has better things to do than deal with a reporter from a media outlet not in his district. Are we clear on this?” We’re clear.

The aide said that the Army demanded this specialized drip pan.

The Army, however, said it was simply following a budget directive from Congress. Mr. Rogers’s earmark came before House members informally agreed to ban such provisions to for-profit companies.

“Congress mandated a leakproof transmission drip pan,” said Dov Schwartz, an Army spokesman. The contract was awarded without competitive bids because Phoenix was the only company deemed “approved and certified” for the work, he said. “The number of people that make leakproof transmission dripping pans is few and far between,” Mr. Schwartz said, adding that the steel required for such pans is more costly than the plastic used in other versions.

There will always be skeptics in the media, looking to connect dots, when there are no dots to connect. You know. Like this.

Tom Wilson, who owns Phoenix Products, defended his company’s pans as better constructed and more durable than others on the market. Asked what made them so costly, he declined to discuss specifics, saying that disclosure of the company’s custom design could help competitors or even aid America’s enemies.

Mr. Wilson and his wife, Peggy, who is the president of the company, have been frequent contributors to Mr. Rogers’s political committee, as well as to Republican groups. The company has paid at least $600,000 since 2005 to a Washington lobbying firm, Martin Fisher Thompson & Associates, to represent its interests on federal contracting issues, records show.

Mr. Rogers, in turn, has been a strong supporter of the manufacturer. He has directed more than $17 million in work orders for Phoenix Products since 2000.

This sort of thing is common among reporters. There is a simple explanation.

Mr. Wilson said he did not think that his company’s relationship with Mr. Rogers or its Washington connections were a major factor in the Army’s decision to buy his pan. His company got the work, he said, because its drip pan was “just simply a better product.”

That makes sense to me. How about you?

Continue Reading on www.nytimes.com

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24 thoughts on “Flying Pork: The $17,000 Helicopter Drip Pan

  1. He should go to jail for this. It is stealing and political pay back.

  2. Robin Miller says:

    Business as usual! It is time to clean up D.C., GET RID of lobbyists, get bids on ALL government contracts. And remind members of Congress that they work for ALL of us, not just their contributing constituents.

  3. yupikesk1 says:

    I dislike 90% of our congress, and think the other 10% should go to . . .. They are either involved or they stand by doing nothing. Absolutely nothing excepet closing and naming postoffices..????

  4. This is a prime example of "the problem" in DC. It's all about me and what's in it for me!!! Guess giving $600,000 for $17,000,000 in orders is not a bad return for the money. That would be "our" money. BTW, Sen. Dick Lugar from Indiana voted against Sen. Jim DeMint's amendment to ban earmarks. Lugar also said we don't need term limits….which he also voted against in DeMint's amendment…He said it is called an election. You know the outcome.

  5. One Group of the government is no better than the others. They are all out to RIP OFF the American People. This government is nothing but a BUNCH OF LEGALIZED THIEVES! They keep stealing from the little guys and it is never enough.

  6. It goes to show that Democrats and Republicans are two sides of the same coin.

  7. Bogusbob says:

    Another thing to remember, is that most contracts with the gov. are per mil. spec. They also require you to document the item on mil.std. paper. The documentation is what drives the price. If the gov. wants a hammer, they send our RFQ's. You have to build it per mil std. They coculd just go to the closest home depot or Lowe's and pick it up. I rmember years ago that a ship's captain bought some ash trays for his vessel at a local store. he was repremanded for not getting bids on them.

  8. This shows that we have a congress that cares nothing about the deficit and spending and wasting our money. Rodgers need to be voted out. He is not a conservative. All who voted for this are just as responsible.

  9. First of all I do not believe this was even allowed to happen !!!! Drip pans are made in the Allied Shops from the stock sheet metal in the racks. I know after spending most of my 23 years in the Army in Aviation and as the Maintenance Officer and Test Pilot.

    This Congressman overstepped and suffer for it. But MY QUESTION IS WHO LET THE CONTRACT???????? That person or person needs to be drummed out of the military.

    This is yet one classic example of Congress interfering in the Defense Budget and the military catching hell for it. Another example is the development of the AH-64 Apache Attack Helicopter. Hughes (bought by McDonald Douglas) Helicopters had a poster showing where every end part came from. There was at least 1 part from every State in America. Thus the nickname for the helicopter AH – 64 Patch Attack reflecting it was a patch job with different parts from sooooo many sources.

    If you want to see just how bad it is find a copy of the old book "B1Bomber ….." Can't remember the rest but it has a picture of the B1 on it bent in two places like a paper airplane. It goes through the entire procurement process and has a fold out that lists every President, VP, Sec of Defense, Congressperson, ad nauseum and where the contracts went into those politicians districts. The chart is enough to piss you off, yet alone actually reading the book.

    The Defense Budget is not a Defense Dept problem…..the problem it the PEOPLE that elected the Congressional Bozo's that line the voters pockets. And the voters don't care.

  10. So much of that is happening all over the world. I chuckled while reading it. About 20 years ago, I was working for a company that built things for the federal government. A machine operator complained that his machine was spilling small amounts of oil in the floor. I found a piece of sheet aluminum and placed it into the machine to catch the drip and let it flow back into the machine. My supervisor said "That is not how we do things here," and he called an outside sheet metal contractor to come and fix the problem. The contractor came in, placed a very similar piece of sheet metal on the machine, and billed the company for $11,000. Later I found that every thing that company did was cost plus. That is prevalent in almost every factory that does work for "Uncle Sam".

  11. It's a freakin drip pan; you can pick one up in the houseware department at WalMart for a few bucks

  12. Vote ALL lib dems AND rinos OUT in Nov!!

  13. Let's bring back the tar and feather sentence.

  14. When I sold parts to private companies, they would always "beat me up" for a better price. But when the government called me, they didn't care how much it was.

  15. Does Conservative Pork taste better than Liberal Pork??
    Do they care, since We the People, pay the Fare??
    On this spending spree, We the People need a Cork.
    We who care, need seek Representation, elsewhere.

  16. Bill McCroskey says:

    We are doomed as a country … this is one grain of sand on the spending beach. The waste in the military budget is beyond your wildest dreams (along with every OTHER federal, state and local government agency and project.)

  17. So what they are telling us is that this specially designed drip pan is really no more than an over sized cookie sheet that bolts to an under carriage. Hell, they could be made of aluminum, or sheet steel. Once stamped into form the cost should
    have been lowered. This is cause any production shop will and does charge less for many of one type of part. Count your
    helicopters in need and make a future supply and mimimum cost. Sheet metal + labor + operation expenses [electricity / down time / one time set-up time / tooling. Then run them. It may take an entire morning to manufacture 20,000 or so. Its known as production.

  18. Sgt. York says:

    i have heard this junk before on construction. Many Co.s have people on jobs that just dont give a damn what things cost. This is another example of less brain and more pen. his new address should be the Cross Bar Motel.

  19. catchesthewnd says:

    May he and obama be cellmates.

  20. Add it to the DOD paying $800 for a hammer and $300 for a toilet seat. Hey America, have a look at your tax dollars at work.

  21. Bob da Grouch says:

    The good old "Ames" shovel Co. should enjoy a good fiscal year, or two. It's going to require a heap of shovels to clean up all this BS

  22. I have an acquaintance who worked under contract for the DoD once. He compared Pentagon spending to the kind of budgets he had in the private sector, as the difference between a fire hose open full-blast and a garden hose with a tiny trickle coming out the end.

  23. Truth Be Told says:

    Tea party to blame also, since it's the party that shills for the GOP and Republicans

  24. Who cares what it tastes like? You and me are never getting a taste, although that doesn't stop them billing your kids for the meal. No you have to be this rich -> $$$$$$ to ride this gravy train and neither of us are.