Politics and motor sports. We can only hope that their paths don't cross often.|
The U.S. House voted last week to continue to allow the military to spend millions in sports marketing to attract recruits for the various branches. By a vote of 216-202, the House defeated an amendment that would have trimmed $72.3 million for sports sponsorships from the $608 billion defense bill for fiscal 2013.
The measure had targeted money the National Guard spends to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR's most popular driver. It also would have cut the funding for J.R. Hildebrand in IndyCar, money the Army spends on National Hot Rod Association drag racing, funds the Marines spend for the Ultimate Fighting Championships and also money spent to sponsor bass fishing.
The provision had been stricken from the legislation on procedural grounds, which is why it had to be offered as an amendment to HR 5856.
The amendment was authored by U.S. Reps. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., and Betty McCollum, D-Minn. The House also rejected an effort by McCollum to reduce the budget from $388 million to $200 million for the military's 140 bands and 5,000 full-time musicians.
According to Associated Press reports, Kingston argued that the sponsorship money was ineffective, attracting few recruits and made no sense as the Army and Marines are reducing troop strength.
"If someone is going to sign away five or six years of their life, it's going to take more than an ad on an automobile," Kingston was reported to have said in a press conference prior to the floor debate.
Locally, it was kind of a mish-mash of support and opposition. From the western Illinois delegation, U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, supported the amendment to cut the funding while another Republican, Aaron Schock of Peoria, opposed it. In Iowa, Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Waterloo, supported the amendment which would have limited spending, while U.S. Rep. David Loebsack, D-Mount Vernon, voted no.
Republicans voted against the amendment (and in support of sports sponsorships) by a 156-81 margin, while Democrats voted for the amendment (and against sponsorships) by a 121-60 margin.
Sources tell me that those who supported the amendment knew it would fail but floated it anyway so that they could tout their cost-cutting effort as the November election nears.
If the measure was just a political ploy, you can't help but wonder if it was really worth stirring up the various motorsports "nations" and turn them against you with an election so close.
"Sports sponsorships work," Marcus Jadotte, vice president of public affairs for NASCAR, said in a statement. "They remain a critical part of the marketing mix for a host of other big, consumer-facing brands like the U.S. Armed forces. Leaving marketing decisions like these in the hands of a select few members of Congress is misguided. Today's vote continues to protect the ability of our nation's military to have access to the same sports marketing platforms as other leading brands."
NASCAR sent a letter, co-signed by officials from the NBA, NFL, MLB and IndyCar Series, to Congress in opposition to the amendment.
This country has a deficit and, yes, something needs to be done about it and soon.
But the U.S. military has done an impressive job of defending not only our nation but much of the rest of the world. It has met this challenge year after year, conflict after conflict, with an all-volunteer service. The Armed Forces have been able to keep the barracks filled, planes flying and ships manned. They have kept the National Guard and Reserves staffed, trained and ready to react.
Clearly, they have all been effective with their recruiting. Sports sponsorship has been a part of that.
It's been my experience that motorsports attract people who tend to be handy and mechanical — both in the pits, behind the wheel and in the stands. Motorsports attract people who want to win and who are loyal — to their team, their driver and the sponsors who support their sport.
These are traits that are also important to our military.
At some point, Congress will decide if it is going to cut moderately into the military budget or whack a lot off. At that point, the Pentagon is going to have to decide how it is going to spend the available money. Obviously, some is still going to have to be spent on recruitment as present-day soldiers cycle out and replacements are needed.
I trust our generals, admirals and their staff to make the right decisions. That is certainly a preferential process than congressmen trying to chip away at programs one amendment at a time.
- Bikes at Iowa Speedway: A new event kicks off this week at Iowa Speedway. The Iowa Grand Motorcycle Rally, July 25-28, features national level acts, celebrities and events on par with other major rallies around the country.
Wednesday kicked off with the Rusty Wallace Ride benefiting the NASCAR Foundation and Iowa Speedway Foundation. Today is the John Lehman Tribute Ride honoring the late, famous trike builder, which will end as part of a cruise-in parade of bikes into Newton Town Square for a pig roast. The rock band Hairball, which blasts classic from the 1970s and '80s, will deliver a pyrotechnics-filled concert at the speedway.
Friday, a military tribute takes place at the traveling Wall that Heals — a half-size replica of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., with a presentation of the Rolling Thunder XXV Tribute Bikes built by world-renowned bike builders. The Iowa Grand Bike Show will feature all makes and models. The alternative rock band Rev Theory and country singer Joe Diffie will entertain.
Saturday will be a celebrity-filled day with Katey Sagal and Charlie Hunnam of FX's "Sons of Anarchy" and Danielle Colby Cushman from "American Pickers," who will co-host the official Iowa Grand Tattoo Competition. The event, administered by Ink Addiction of Des Moines, will feature star tattoo artists.
The Iowa Grand Vintage Bike Show will attract enthusiasts of vintage rides. Eddie Money and Blue Oyster Cult provide a night of classic rock, while the Miss Iowa Grand competition will feature girls from around the region.
This column is compiled by Roger Ruthhart and appears each Thursday in The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. Please send items of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org . Racing results should be sent to email@example.com .
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