FAA Receives Golden Fleece Award for Fleecing Taxpayers at Tampa International Airport

Golden Fleece AwardFAA Receives Golden Fleece Award for Fleecing Taxpayers at Tampa International Airport

Article  | Quick Takes
Nov 2, 2000  | 5 min read

TAMPA, FL – Citing bargain-basement leases to rich developers at the Tampa International Airport, a national taxpayers organization today awarded the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the dubious distinction of being the first recipient of the revived Golden Fleece Award.

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the famous waste-busting award, former Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire asked Taxpayers for Common Sense to revive the Golden Fleece Award.  Today’s award is the second time the FAA has received a Golden Fleece for the same problem.  In 1985, Proxmire also awarded the FAA a Fleece for below-market leases at Florida airports.

“A half-billion taxpayer dollars is being hijacked, but the FAA just says have a pleasant flight,” said Ralph DeGennaro, President of Taxpayers for Common Sense.  “I challenge Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater and FAA Administrator Jane Garvey to say which side they are on – champions of taxpayers or protectors of those who fleece them?”

“In March 1985, I gave the FAA the award for fleecing taxpayers out of millions at Florida airports through below-market leases.  Now, independent auditors confirm that over the last 15 years, the FAA has basically done nothing to fix it,” said Proxmire today in a videotaped statement released at the press conference.

“That is why I am delighted that, 25 years after I originated the Golden Fleece Award, Taxpayers for Common Sense is reviving it!  Agency bureaucrats and politicians are relentless in dreaming up ways to waste your money.  The Tampa airport rip-off is a textbook example of why we need the Fleece now more than ever,” continued Proxmire.

This is the first Golden Fleece award presented since 1988, when Senator Proxmire retired from the Senate after 31 years.  The revival of the Golden Fleece Award is sponsored by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a national budget watchdog organization.  Senator Proxmire is Honorary Chair of the group’s Advisory Committee.

In a 1992 report and a follow-up letter in 1999, the independent Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Transportation (DOT) concluded that there is no justification for the Tampa International Airport undervaluing this lease and the IG recommended that the airport should not receive anymore federal funds until it has fixed the problem.

The lease in question is a 155-acre tract known as the Boy Scout site on Tampa International Airport lands.  While the airport leases land to the U.S. Post Office at $12 per square foot, the site is leased to a private interest for only 41 cents per square foot.  An independent analysis found that charging market rent would return about $500 million more to federal taxpayers over the duration of the lease.

“FCAN objects to any corporation or government agency shifting its costs of doing business to us the consumers and taxpayers. If FAA’s failure to enforce its own rules and make developers pay their fair share forces Tampa airport customers to pay higher airport taxes, then this is totally unfair,” said Rosette Walsh, President of the Florida Consumer Action Network.

“Feared by bureaucrats and politicians, and beloved by taxpayers of all political stripes, the Golden Fleece Award is back to save money for a new generation of taxpayers,” said DeGennaro.  “We will also honor Senator Proxmire’s legacy and maintain high standards of accuracy, fairness and non-partisanship.”  Taxpayers for Common Sense initially plans to announce Golden Fleece Awards on an occasional basis, at least quarterly.

From 1975 to 1988, Senator Proxmire issued a monthly Golden Fleece Award that highlighted a specific example of a “wasteful, ridiculous or ironic use of the taxpayer’s money” in order to galvanize public opinion against wasteful spending.  The awards helped save millions of dollars by causing targeted programs to be curtailed, modified or canceled, and by putting government officials on notice to prevent future waste.

In December 1999, TCS inducted Proxmire and his Fleece Award into the group’s Taxpayer Hall of Fame and issued a 26-page appreciation and history of the Fleece and Proxmire.