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Earmark critic got funds for blimp project

  |   July 30, 2009 at 10:25 AM
WASHINGTON, July 30 (UPI) -- The chief earmark critic in the U.S. House has steered a million-dollar earmark to an Illinois firm for dirigible research, a report in Politico said.

Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who has been publicly critical of government earmarks, guided a $1.6 million earmark in 2008 for blimp research to an Illinois company whose president admits a lack of experience in government contracting and doesn't know a whit about building blimps, Politico first reported Thursday. The company did have Adrian Plesha, a former Sessions aide who has made more than $446,000 lobbying on the company's behalf.

Sessions spokeswoman Emily Davis told Politico the project is a sensible use of federal funds and could lead to thousands of new jobs in Sessions' Dallas-area district. Jim G. Ferguson & Associates, however, is based a Chicago suburb with an office in San Antonio, about 300 miles from Dallas.

Plesha's role as a former Sessions staffer didn't influence the congressman's decision, a Sessions aide told Politico.

"His role is clear: He and his client (briefed) the congressman and his staff," the aide said, then Sessions evaluated the project's merits. Based on the briefing, Sessions submitted the request to the House Appropriations Committee.

The Texas Republican believes in the project, Davis said.

"Based on briefings that congressman Sessions and his staff have received, projected applications of the technology include military surveillance, fuel-efficient military cargo transportation ... and missile defense," Davis said in a statement.

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