Oklahoma company targeted by Coburn's Wastebook

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Updated: 12/18/2013 6:11 pm Published: 12/18/2013 4:48 pm

On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., released the 2013 edition of his "Wastebook."

FOX23's Ian Silver took a closer look at the $30 billion in what Coburn calls wasteful spending and found an Oklahoma company was included in the list.

Coburn called a government grant to make more wine a waste of tax dollars.

It's a $200,000 dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a winery in McAlester called Whispering Meadows to become more efficient in making Oklahoma wine.

"Why would a private company need money from the government to make ... they should be able to do it on their own," said Tulsan Timothy Thompson when told about the grant.

Thompson found the grant a complete waste, as did Tulsan Drew Shearer.

"Just off the top of my head, no, it doesn't sound like they should be helping private companies develop wine. I hope it is good wine," said Shearer.

According to Coburn's "Wastebook," Whispering Meadows Vineyards & Winery received the $200,000 grant to buy new equipment, including 11 new tanks and a new automated bottling machine to increase wine production.

FOX23 News tried reaching the owner of Whispering Meadows. The man who answered the phone said this was actually a matching grant and that the USDA only provided $100,000.

The owner never called FOX23 back, but a former employee confirmed off camera that the business did, in fact, match a $100,000 grant and started buying the new equipment in June.

That bit of information changed the tone for Thompson.

"Not as wasteful as other stuff," he said.

But Coburn's report notes that 637,000 Oklahomans had their food assistance from the USDA decreased while the agency was helping a private company.

The former employee said the USDA's goal was to help the winery double its production, because that would help Oklahoma grape-growers increase production and increase jobs and business in the state.

The owner at the Bodega Liquor Store said Whispering Meadows wine is popular, and he could sell more if the company could keep up with the demand.

So, indirectly, the grant could help several other businesses.

FOX23 also found an entry for $500,000 to improve one block of main street in the small town of Rossville, Kansas, a town of only 1150 people.

Thompson had a tough time swallowing that pill. “Your local towns need to look nice, but I think maybe you oughta do it yourself. I mean, why should someone from New York fix something here in Oklahoma? That doesn’t make sense to me either,” he said.

“I know $537, 000 can be nothing compared to some things. But still, that’s a lot of money for just a tenth of a mile,” said Shearer.

Thompson agreed with a lot of Coburn’s waste claims, like the Army National Guard spending $10 million in marketing in connection with the Superman movie “Man of Steel” for recruitment while the National Guard was having to cut back its numbers.

“I’m usually a pro-military guy, but that seems wasteful to me,” said Thompson.

Or close to $1 million to research romance novels and pop culture. Or $300 million for the army to build a giant blimp that can fly for three weeks straight at 20,000 feet to use for surveillance over Afghanistan.

Problem is the blimp was over budget and way behind schedule and had countless problems.
After a single 90-minute test flight the blimp was sold back to the contractor for $300,000.

“Can I get some stock in that contractor? Looks like they made a bit of money there. Yeah, that seems like a bad deal to me,” said Thompson.

Most of the $30 billion in Coburn’s Wastebook is money Thompson thinks should have stayed in taxpayers’ pockets.

“But if the government were to use it, I would think it should be what government was designed for: that’s our defense and to maintain our roads and bridges and stuff like that,” said Thompson.

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

Mayor Maynot - 12/20/2013 1:57 PM
0 Votes
CowSnot #8 ^]] So you're saying that it's a travesty that the government is making such a great profit on their investment. The government doubled her ability to produce her product. = The government doubled the governments ability to make a profit from that investment by tax revenue alone. Not only that they created more jobs = more taxes for the government. She grew her business to where the govt wanted to invest and ride along.

Mayor Maynot - 12/20/2013 3:04 AM
0 Votes
If they are making twice as much wine then that's good for tax revenue. The sale of each bottle is taxed. Quit paying Tom. He doesn't create any new stream of tax revenue.

CowBot9000 - 12/19/2013 8:16 AM
0 Votes
Either they can't turn a profit or they don't reinvest profits into tooling up. Either way, this is a travesty.

Mayor Maynot - 12/18/2013 8:35 PM
0 Votes
Put Tom Coburn's name on the list.

Mayor Maynot - 12/18/2013 6:53 PM
0 Votes
Toms favorite romance novel. Dances with waste.
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