The demand for coal is surging, and the owners of the DM&E [Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad] want to cash in on the boom. But instead of turning to the private sector for financing, the railroad asked its onetime lobbyist and now senator, John Thune (R--S.D.), to help out. Thune obliged. He has been pushing for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to give his former client a $2.3 billion loan to build the 262-mile extension, this for an outfit with revenues under $200 million. Servicing this debt will come to almost $250 million a year.
This carrier is no stranger to government largesse. Three years ago it got itself a $233 million loan from Uncle Sam. Yet DM&E's safety record is, to put it charitably, spotty, with a main-track accident rate eight times the national average.
Senator Thune slipped this $2.3 billion earmark into the pork-heavy 2005 transportation bill. With no debate and no hearings, Thune got the FRA's Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing Program increased tenfold, from $3.5 billion to $35 billion. Moreover, points out the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, a free-market foundation, "Thune also modified the loan criteria to benefit only one company, setting in place provisions for the loan to be granted to his former employer with no collateral and no payments for six years." The public has been barred from examining the loan application and the company's finances.Democrats: can you see the opportunities this kind of garbage provides you?
GOP = the stupid party.