Fla. Sen. Bill Nelson Named Porker of the Month

February 7, 2003

Citizens Against Government Waste announced it named Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) its February 2003 Porker of the Month for putting taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars in potential liability cost in Florida.

A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, mismanagement and abuse in government, Citizens Against Government Waste presented the following argument for selecting Sen. Nelson for the award:

During the recent Senate floor debate on the fiscal 2003 Omnibus appropriations bill, Sen. Nelson quietly inserted an amendment to transfer the anthrax-contaminated American Media Building in Boca Raton, Fla., and all its liability, to the federal government’s General Services Administration (GSA). The building, which housed the National Enquirer and other publications, is uninhabitable, and its liability is enormous.

While the property’s owner, Globe Communications Corporation, and its insurance carrier, are likely thrilled by the government’s largesse, it is unclear why taxpayers should assume current and future liabilities for this disaster. One of the justifications cited for the transfer is to provide the government an opportunity to study anthrax remediation. Problem is, the government did such research during the Hart Senate Office Building cleanup, and is still doing it with the Brentwood postal facility in Washington, DC.

Further, if research were the aim, the building should have gone to the Department of Defense, the National Institutes for Health, or the Centers for Disease Control, not the GSA, which owns government buildings for habitation, not labs for biology experiments.

The cost of eliminating the building’s biohazards will likely exceed the pre-contamination value of the property, $7.4 million for leasing purposes. The cleaning procedure would be similar to the methods used in the Hart building, and could take 6 to 9 months at a cost of $6.5 million to $9.8 million, plus an additional $6 million to $9 million for oversight. Total cleanup costs could run as high as $19 million.

In all likelihood, since the government does not want the building for research, will be unlikely to lease the space profitably, and does not need it for federal workers in Boca, demolition is the most logical path. The estimated cost to demolish the building and dispose of the construction materials in a non-hazardous landfill is approximately $600,000.

Sen. Nelson’s directive, that the federal government assume financial responsibility for the American Media property and its hazardous material cleanup, will likely subject taxpayers to additional serious liability issues. Any party involved with the protection, maintenance, operation and/or cleanup of the property will look directly to the government for resolution of any issue or claim associated with this property. Those claims could reach hundreds of millions of dollars.

For covertly strapping taxpayers with this bailout to a realtor and insurance company, CAGW names Sen. Bill Nelson its February Porker of the Month.

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