Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander is chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee. That means he holds the pursestrings for Department of Energy nuclear weapons programs—so far his committee has doled out more than $2 billion for the Uranium Processing Facility bomb plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, even though there is no approved plan for the bomb plant. More than $2 billion has been spent by the design team, but there is still no design!
Concerned? Don’t be silly. Senator Alexander has set himself up as the sole overseer of this project in his home state; he holds quarterly meetings with National Nuclear Security Administration officials and the contractors who are collecting the money from Lamar. After the secret meetings, he provides a report to the public: “The project is on schedule and on budget.”
Well, that should relieve our con— wait, did he say “on schedule?” But there is no schedule for the bomb plant. Not yet. And he said “on budget?” There’s no budget either, not even a rough cost estimate. They said they won’t prepare one until the design is 90% complete. Until then, it’s spend tax dollars hand over fist and answer to no one but Lamar.
So in November, we launched the Tell the Taxpayer campaign, an effort to generate letters from Tennesseans to Lamar asking for answers. By our count, more than one hundreds letters were written, most of them by hand, and sent to Alexander. His response has been a courteous form letter than is void of substance.
Today the Tell the Taxpayer campaign went to Lamar’s office in Knoxville, where they won’t let us in to meet with his staff. We gathered on the sidewalk and read our letter to Lamar and read the form letter he has been sending to everyone who has written.
Imagine our surprise when, in the middle of our rally, “The Senator” appeared in his trademark black and red flannel shirt. He made his way down the line of sign-holders pumping hands and greeting everyone warmly. When he finished, he made his speech and then presented a $2 billion check to Mr. Moneybags, who was all too happy to receive it. Yikes!
We closed the rally singing “The UPF Ditty (Sorry, our heart is just breaking).”
You can read OREPA’s letter to Lamar here:
And you can see pictures from the rally on OREPA’s facebook page or the Tell the Taxpayer facebook page.