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December 21, 2014

Mike Turner Broadens Campaign Against ‘Monuments to Me’

miketurner042413 445x295 Mike Turner Broadens Campaign Against ‘Monuments to Me’

Turner has focused on eliminating “monuments to me” for several years. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Following a successful bid to ban the naming of facilities authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act after sitting members of Congress, Ohio Republican Rep. Michael R. Turner is broadening his push to ban the practice across the federal government.

Turner introduced a bill Tuesday to ban “monuments to me” and may seek to include language in individual appropriations bills, he said in an interview. He has been leading the charge for several years.

“We all understand acknowledging the service of those members who are retired or have, perhaps, passed on. But sitting members of Congress — it’s a clear conflict of interest for a facility to be named after them,” Turner said. “These are not member of Congress dollars that build these facilities, they’re the taxpayers’ dollars.”

Lawmakers, particularly in the Senate, have had dozens, perhaps hundreds, of new buildings, roads and other projects named after themselves in past years. In many cases, those things are private institutions. But in other cases, they are government-funded projects authorized in legislation the lawmakers help enact.

For example, a 2000 bill named a federal courthouse after Democratic Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg of New Jersey.

Even in cases where private institutions name buildings, centers or other things after lawmakers, the situation often presents problems of conflicts of interest.

Iowa State University tried to create a Harkin Institute of Public Policy after Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, but the center became a public relations disaster when questions where raised about whether the center’s donors had relied on Harkin for legislative favors.

Turner said that recent spending cuts have created the ideal atmosphere for broadening the ban and the momentum from his previous success will help propel this effort.

For the Department of Defense ban, “We certainly got some negative feedback from offices and staff members who currently have things named after them or who might be in the process of having things named after them, but overall I think people were embarrassed and ashamed to step forward and oppose the prohibition,” Turner said.

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