Las Vegas Sun

August 20, 2019

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Mob museum is Exhibit A for GOP leader

McConnell uses local project to make point against stimulus pork

Mob Museum

Courtesy photo

The building where the mob museum is planned in Las Vegas is a former courthouse where one day of the Kefauver hearings on organized crime happened in November 1950.

The mob in Las Vegas

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Las Vegas Sun history project

Las Vegas’ proposed mob museum is a subject ripe for ridicule, and the Republicans here have held it up as just that.

Now that work is under way on the economic recovery package of tax breaks and public works projects being developed by President-elect Barack Obama and congressional leaders, lawmakers in both parties are insisting that no money go for earmarks — pet projects in lawmakers’ home districts.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, raised the mob museum as Exhibit A in frivolous spending on a Sunday morning political talk show on ABC.

“We would like, on the spending side, obviously, to avoid funding things like a mob museums or water slides,” McConnell reiterated during a news conference on Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in his own appearance Sunday on “Meet the Press,” insisted there will be no earmarks in the stimulus package.

Reid’s spokesman repeated the refrain on Monday when asked whether the mob museum should get stimulus money. “There will be no earmarks in the stimulus. Nada. Zero. Zilch,” spokesman Jon Summers said.

Las Vegas’ effort to secure federal money to help turn a historic post office into a museum about its storied criminal past is something watchdogs of excess spending love to hate.

The museum rose to prominence last month after Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman was quoted telling the Review-Journal he would seek funding for the project in the stimulus package.

In fact, he said, he was hoping to suggest as much in an upcoming talk with Reid.

“If we could get some help along those lines, that would be what the stimulus bill was really talking about,” Goodman said at the time.

What happened next is a product of the 24/7 nexus of media and politics.

The story went out the way stories do — on a local radio station and blogs, including the Drudge Report, the conservative must-read site.

Republicans in Washington heard about it and, presto, a poster child was born.

Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley declined to dip into the fray Monday with a response.

Rep.-elect Dina Titus, a Democrat, chuckled when asked whether the museum should get stimulus money.

“That wouldn’t be at the top of my list for infrastructure,” Titus said. “I’m thinking more of highway construction is what we need in Nevada — transportation infrastructure. You’ve got to be careful. The public’s not going to put up with things.”

But Ted Olivas, Las Vegas’ director of administrative services, said he remained “hopeful some of the economic stimulus money would make it to Southern Nevada.”

“We think our projects are just as important as those of the other local jurisdictions in the nation.”

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