ABC’s Jonathan Karl on Friday attacked wasteful government spending of stimulus money, even going to the John Murtha Airport in Western Pennsylvania, which he derided as a "ghost town." Providing some refreshing journalistic skepticism about the Obama legislation, Karl described the airport as a "monument to powerful Democratic Congressman John Murtha."
The House member’s portrait could be seen in the background as Karl reported for Good Morning America on the $17 million that the tiny airport has received. (Politico puts the total number at $150 million.) The reporter conducted a tour of the empty, quiet building: "When we visited Murtha Airport earlier this year, the place looked like a ghost town. We have rented a car. But the Hertz counter is as deserted as the rest of the airport." (Karl also traveled to other small town airports that recieved money.)
Although the ABC congressional correspondent did point out the fact that Murtha is a Democrat, it would have been nice if he more specifically mentioned that the airport's three flights a day all go only to Washington.
Still, Karl did contribute this blunt analysis as he concluded his report:
JONATHAN KARL: Just yesterday, the Senate had a chance to strip money from the Murtha Airport. It was an amendment offered by Republican Jim DeMint that would have ended the $1.4 million in annual subsidies that that airport gets for its flights to Washington, D.C. But the amendment, Diane and Robin, was rejected by a vote of 43 to 53. So, thanks to your tax dollars, the Murtha Airport lives on.
ABC should be given kudos for highlighting stimulus waste. And this isn’t the first time Karl has done such a report. On July 10, 2009, he pointed out how much money the government was spending to create road signs informing Americans of spending-related projects. Hopefully, Karl and ABC will continue these segments.
A transcript of the September 18 segment, which aired at 7:15am EDT, follows:
ROBIN ROBERTS: Now, a look at where the $787 billion in government stimulus money is going. We've been trying to keep track of it for you. And you're not going to like this. Some itty-bitty airports are getting federal dollars by the planeload. Our senior congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl has more on that.
ABC GRAPHIC: Follow the Stimulus Money: Should We Fund a Resort’s Airport?
JONATHAN KARL: Welcome to the Greenbrier Valley Airport, gateway to the posh Greenbrier Valley resort. A place where the rooms start at 500 bucks a night. The airport is about to get more than $2 million of stimulus funds to spruce up the terminal building. There are only two commercial flights a day, like this one, at the Greenbrier Airport. And on average, those planes only have three to nine passengers. And on this flight, the airport workers load a single piece of luggage. There are two pilots and two passengers. Your tax dollars keep this airport in business. In addition to the stimulus money, the federal government subsidizes commercial flights here to the tune of about $562 per passenger. Locals say the money is well spent.
LYNN SWANN (Director of Public The most important thing we can have is an easier way for guests to get to the Greenbrier. That doesn't benefit just the Greenbrier. It benefits the entire region.
KARL: In Alaska, millions of tax dollars are going to airports that make the Greenbrier look like O’Hare. ABC News visited Ouzinkie Airport, which just hit the stimulus jackpot with $15 million. That's $100,000 for each of the town's 150 residents. Even though there's another airport just 30 minutes away.
WILLIAM DELGADO (resident): That’s an awful lot of money for just a little village. I don’t know how it happened, but it happened.
KARL: It happened after the state applied to the FAA for its piece of the stimulus pie. Several other tiny Alaska airports got money as well.
CHRISTINE KLEIN (Dep. Commissioner of Aviation, Alaska DOT & PF): Our rural citizens have the same needs as our urban citizens. And we are not the- in a position to judge which are more important.
KARL: But critics call them airports to nowhere. The most famous is the John Murtha Airport in western Pennsylvania, a monument to powerful Democratic Congressman John Murtha. It has received more that $17 million in federal money over several years. When we visited Murtha Airport earlier this year, the place looked like a ghost town. We have rented a car. But the Hertz counter is as deserted as the rest of the airport. So, we placed a call. And we are told that a Hertz representative will be coming from downtown Johnstown to give us the key for our vehicle, which we believe is parked out in the parking lot. We eventually got our car. And Murtha Airport picked up another $800,000 in stimulus money. Just yesterday, the Senate had a chance to strip money from the Murtha Airport. It was an amendment offered by Republican Jim DeMint that would have ended the $1.4 million in annual subsidies that that airport gets for its flights to Washington, D.C. But the amendment, Diane and Robin, was rejected by a vote of 43 to 53. So, thanks to your tax dollars, the Murtha Airport lives on.
DIANE SAWYER: You had a lonely trip out there, Jon. All those airports. It really is eye-opening. Thank you so much.