NASCAR Promotion Earns Martin ‘Porker of the Month’

If it wasn’t bad enough that the FCC-sponsored racing car—part of the commission’s DTV outreach efforts—crashed in its opening race, now a government watchdog has given Chairman Kevin Martin its ignominious “Porker of the Month” award for October.

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW)—a group presidential candidate John McCain has cited as a reference for his frugality bona fides—hammered Martin for the $355,000 sponsorship for three races of a racer from his home state of North Carolina. It’s one of many official FCC actions Martin has made that also are helping develop a base of allies should he ever, say, run for governor in North Carolina some day.

The FCC is paying $355,000 to sponsor David Gilliland's number 38 car, owned by Yates Racing, to help raise DTV awareness. Gilliland crashed in the car’s inaugaural run, Oct. 19 at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.

“Even though the commission has inundated networks with paid announcements for months, Martin considered it necessary to use additional taxpayer dollars to pay for the car and driver to bear slogans such as ‘Is Your TV ready for Digital?’” CAGW said.

The group noted that NAB has said the public is already largely aware of the switch. Many transition-watchers, including the acting head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, have said the public is generally aware of the transition but now needs more specific information.

“Indeed, some have suggested that Martin's decision to move forward with this sponsorship is linked to his political future in the state,” CAGW said. “Gilliland is based in North Carolina, while NASCAR maintains offices in four North Carolina cities. Additionally, Martin chose Wilmington, North Carolina as the test site for the switch to DTV.

“Considering Martin's ability to sequester taxpayer money for his prospective constituents, he is well on his way to becoming a successful legislative porker,” CAGW said. “For using taxpayer funds on an unnecessary project, diverting focus from more important telecommunications concerns, recklessly spending without consulting with his peers, and attempting to use his influence to shore up his own political prospects, CAGW names FCC Chairman Kevin Martin its October 2008 Porker of the Month.”