Friday, January 09, 2009

Will Mob Museum Get Funding from the Federal Stimulus Package?

The mob museum just can’t seem to get any love in this town.

Republican Sen. John Ensign on Wednesday became the latest Nevada lawmaker to say there’s no way Las Vegas’ proposed Mob Museum is going to get a dime from the federal economic stimulus package.

“It’s not going to happen — there’s no way it’s going to happen,” Ensign said. “If folks tried to put things like that in the bill, it could bring down the bill out of embarrassment.”

The mob museum could have become Nevada’s own “bridge to nowhere,” a toxic asset depicted by Republicans in Washington as a prime example of potentially wasteful government spending in the recovery package.

Except that the idea never gained much ground here. It arose only because Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, himself a former mob lawyer, suggested last month that if Washington wanted to boost the economy, it could kick in some bucks for the museum he is trying to develop.

Republicans saw Goodman’s comment as a chance for political fungo. They raised the idea in Washington so they could swat at it. Political Web sites picked it up and it became a sensation.

To be sure, cities all over the country have been putting together wish lists of projects that could create jobs and boost their economies. In Las Vegas, the hometown industry could benefit from the tourist traffic of a new museum — which is being developed, incidentally, with the FBI field office’s former special agent in charge.

Nevada’s lawmakers aren’t necessarily opposed to the museum — remodeling of an old post office where it is to be housed has been supported with federal funding in the past. But Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader, has made it clear there will be no pet projects, often called earmarks, in the stimulus package.

Democratic Rep. Dina Titus said funding the mob museum would not be her top choice for stimulating the Southern Nevada economy.

On Wednesday, Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley added her thoughts, saying in a statement: “While I am not opposed to the concept of a museum like this, I do not and will not support federal tax dollars being allocated in this stimulus package specifically for this project.”

No walk-around money for the wise guys, it seems, at least not this time around.

Thanks to Lisa Mascaro

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