|Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN)|
During Wednesday's discussion of H.R. 5856 -- the Department of Defense Appropriations Act – lawmakers defeated an amendment proposed by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) and Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) to prohibit sponsorships of NASCAR, rodeo, professional bass finishing, mixed martial arts and selected other sports. It was initially defeated by a voice vote, then on a 216-202 recorded vote requested by McCollum.
McCollum and Kingston were the only members to speak in support of the amendment. McCollum pointed to last week’s decision by the U.S. Army to end its sponsorship of Ryan Newman’s Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet as proof that military sponsorships have outlived their usefulness. She called teams like Stewart Haas, “military contractors who have failed to deliver on their contract…with the taxpayers."
Seven representatives spoke in opposition, including Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), who testified that the National Guard – sponsor of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – has seen a 300% return on investment from its involvement in NASCAR.
"This is a huge return for the buck," said McHenry. "This is why Fortune 500 companies advertise through NASCAR. Not because it feels good, but because it delivers results. And the fact is, no matter the size of the military, you're still going to need recruits."
Rep. Larry Kissell (D-NC), echoed McHenry’s thoughts, saying, “The most popular driver in NASCAR drives the National Guard car. We don't need to strike that relationship. We need to build on it.”
Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga) said, “A vote for this amendment is a vote against the effectiveness of our military."
Prior to the decisive second vote, Kingston told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s SiriusXM Speedway with Dave Moody that he is troubled by a lack of tangible numbers to support the sponsorship programs.
|Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC)|
“Since February, I have formally been requesting from the Pentagon… from any branch of the service… their numbers,” said Kingston. “I have been unable to get them to produce anything. As somebody whose job it is to watch the tax dollars, when I see a $72 million program… (they) need to be able to say, `here’s where the money is going and here are the results of that money.’ The military can’t do that, and to me, that’s very frustrating. I’m a pro-military guy, but when I ask the Pentagon to give me the numbers, and they can’t, then I have to question the value of the program.”
Kingston said he would endorse NASCAR sponsorships if the Pentagon could produce statistics proving their efficacy. “If they can justify something, then go for it,” he said. “If they’re getting all (these) recruits from NASCAR, then double-down and sponsor three or four cars. But again, they are unable to show us any numbers. They have cleverly morphed the discussion from approvement (of new recruits) to branding, (but) the 2001 law that started this was not about branding. It was specifically about recruiting.”
Kingston declined to explain why NASCAR was targeted for cuts, with no mention of open wheel, drag racing or other forms of motorsport in the amendment. “Our numbers would include IndyCar,” he said. “It does include IndyCar.”
Despite repeated claims to the contrary, neither the 2011 or 2012 amendments contained any budget cuts. Both Kingston and McCollum attempted to add 11th-hour budget-cutting provisions to their amendment Wednesday, in an unsuccessful attempt to secure votes.
|Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga)|
“Listening to the complaints of the people who are against this amendment, we took them at their word (about) wanting to reduce the deficit,” said Kingston. “To those who have said, `I’m going to vote against the Kingston Amendment because it doesn’t reduce the deficit,' that’s not true anymore. Now, the money goes 100% into deficit reduction.”
Kingston also said talk of adding budget cuts to the amendment “has been going on a lot longer than today. But since the bill was not on the floor until today, we could not officially do that.
“The criticism was valid on that (point),” he admitted. “But it has been answered.”
While repeatedly calling himself, “pro-military and pro-NASCAR,” the Georgia Republican said he has never attended a NASCAR race. “I’m not a NASCAR expert, but I have great respect for the sport. I had two Ford F-150s, and one of them had a black (Dale Earnhardt) #3 sticker on it for three or four years.”
McCollum introduced a separate amendment Wednesday that would eliminate funding for military bands. It was also defeated.
Photo Credits: AP Photo, Getty Images.