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Published: Thursday, 7/8/2010

Iott: Kaptur earmarks an 'embarrassment'

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Mr. Iott said Miss Kaptur should renounce the two $5.2 million earmarks requested for Great Lakes Research Center of Toledo because they are an effort to circumvent Congress' ban on earmarks to for-profit ventures.

The Great Lakes Research Center has the same officers, address, and business specialty as Imaging Systems Technology Inc. of Toledo, a for-profit company.

"Washington is broken. Despite the spin Rep. Kaptur may try to put on this, voters of Ohio's 9th Congressional District can obviously see that our representative is trading earmarks for campaign contributions," Mr. Iott said in a statement.

The Blade carried a report Monday by the New York Times that Miss Kaptur arranged the earmark - an order to the executive branch to spend money on a particular project sought by a member of Congress - for a business whose owners, officers, and lobbyists had given her tens of thousands of dollars in contributions.

Mr. Iott called on Miss Kaptur to return the contributions received in connection with Imaging Systems Technology, withdraw the earmarks requests, and disclose "all parties she has helped to skirt the congressional rules barring for-profit companies from receiving earmarks, whether or not they are in our district."

Steve Fought, a spokesman for Miss Kaptur, responded, "Kaptur rejected the former grocer's comments and said she will continue to fight for projects that create jobs and 'spin off companies' and that help people in her congressional district."

Vicki Kurtz, a vice president of Imaging Systems Technology, and her sister, company president Carol Wedding, acknowledged they had to establish the nonprofit to qualify for federal contracts. But they said they had been interested in setting up a philanthropic entity.

They said the contracts will help spur economic development in the Toledo area where the products will continue to be developed and made by a staff of about 22, with more hiring to take place.

"I think Miss Kaptur supports our company because we have been around a while and we are working on some technology that, if it gets some legs, will certainly create jobs," Ms. Wedding said.

Adopted because of repeated scandals over wasteful spending, the earmarks ban aimed to help end abuses. Critics said spending on earmarks, which added $16 billion to last year's federal budget, diverts money from higher priorities, typically does not require competitive bids, and is often directed to experimental research that never will be used. The Times said, "The pay-to-play culture in Washington once again has proved hard to suppress."

The 2011 budget contains two earmarks to Great Lakes Research Center placed by Miss Kaptur, each for $5.2 million - for lightweight armor materials and a gas shield. The products will be made by Imaging Systems Technology Inc. and Deep Springs Technology Inc., both at at 4750 Bancroft St.

Miss Kaptur of the House Appropriations Committee arranged $8.4 million in earmarks for Imaging Systems Technology since 2008, the Times said. But Ms. Kurtz and Ms. Wedding said they had received was $4 million the last three years, and they expected about $2.7 million more.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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