On August 6, President Barack Obama touted his stimulus package at Washington, D.C., sign company Gelberg Signs. According to the Associated Press, Obama noted the fact that Gelberg was taking on new contracts and hiring workers. Somewhat ironically, at the time Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) were pressing forward with an inspector general investigation into the use of “stimulus” funds to purchase signage touting the use of … stimulus funds.
Particularly egregious to Issa and Schock was a sign at Dulles International Airport which reportedly cost $10,000. PJM began investigating the sign issue back in June and began looking into the Dulles sign shortly after the president’s speech at Gelberg.
I spoke to Gelberg Signs to see if they were the company which in fact had made the $10,000 sign.
Gelberg Signs spokeswoman Carrie Fox said Gelberg did not make the Dulles sign and that while the company had indeed added new contracts and begun hiring, the majority of their work was not stimulus related:
We have had some government contracts, but the majority of the growth has come from private contracts.
I then contacted both the Department of Transportation and the Washington Airports Authority, and was directed to Lane Construction. Lane Construction is a national construction company based in Connecticut. It has the contract for the Dulles runway expansion project. I made repeated calls to Lane and left messages asking for the name of the sign contractor which made the $10,000 sign. Those calls have not been returned.
I made a few phone calls shortly after I began investigating this issue. Most states have their own in-house sign shops, and I called several. In no case did they suggest the signs should cost more than $1,350, and most estimates were in the $500 range.
Since Obama’s speech in early August, the inspectors general reports have come back to Issa’s office and been provided to PJM. They clearly show a pattern of either requiring signage or encouraging it in such a way as to make it indistinguishable from a requirement. Issa and Schock continue to push the issue, to the point of asking people to send pictures of stimulus signs in their area to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The administration needs to come clean on the total cost to taxpayers of signs being used to tell people the government is spending taxpayer money. They also need to come clean on who got the sweetheart deal to make one sign for the price of 20.
Further, the administration needs to back off the language “encouraging” the use of the signs. The American people are waking up to these sorts of abuses, and November is less than two months away.
Let’s hope they see a few of the signs on the way to the polls.