Pentagon’s NASCAR Sponsorship Gets a Green Light: Congress Rejects Measure to Cut Funding for Ads on Race Cars

Feb 18, 2011 3:38pm

ABC News’ Karen Travers reports:

The battle over spending continues to rage on Capitol Hill and while Republicans are keen to take an axe to the budget, today one interesting item was spared: The Army’s sponsorship of NASCAR.

The Army spends more than $7 million a year to sponsor NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Ryan Newman and several million more as part of a partnership with NASCAR. It says the prominent ads on the car and presence at the track help attract recruits.

Today the House gave the green light for that sponsorship to continue, rejecting an amendment introduced by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) that would have blocked the Pentagon from using taxpayer dollars for NASCAR ads.

The amendment failed by a largely partisan vote of 281-148, with Republicans overwhelmingly voting against the measure.

McCollum called the NASCAR sponsorship a waste of taxpayer money.

"Taxpayer-funded NASCAR race cars are an absurdity at a time when the Republican-Tea Party is cutting federal support for homeless veterans, law enforcement officers, and firefighters,” McCollum said in a statement when she introduced the amendment this week. “I know NASCAR fans are passionate and patriotic. This amendment gets the government out of NASCAR and gives them the opportunity to encourage the private sector to demonstrate its patriotism by donating a military sponsorship.”

Over the last decade each branch of the military has had a partnership with NASCAR. But now just the Army, Air Force and National Guard continue to sponsor teams – the Marines, Navy and Coast Guard dropped their own NASCAR sponsorships in recent years.

Perhaps the ads are working. Military recruitment is surging – the waiting lists to sign up are currently longer than they have been in recent years which could be a result of several factors: the still-struggling economy, high unemployment rate and the post-9/11 GI Bill, that pays for education and housing for family and service members who have served at least 90 days and were honorably discharged

According to McCollum’s office, her fight will not end here.

The Minnesota Democrat intends to introduce legislation that would prohibit taxpayer money from being used to sponsor race cars, dragsters, Indy cars and motorcycle racing.

McCollum was not present to vote for her own amendment –she is traveling to the Middle East today to address a national security conference.

NASCAR driver Newman will race in this Sunday’s Daytona 500 in the Army-sponsored car. 

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