Steve King is apparently worried that victims of Hurricane Sandy might go on a shopping spree with relief funds. Iowa’s Republican State Representative spoke Tuesday of the relief funding, saying that federal aid for people impacted by Hurricane Sandy should be approved only with a “specific spending plan” so funds are not used for “Gucci bags and massage parlors” like after Hurricane Katrina.
“I want to get them the resources that are necessary to lift them out of this water and the sand and the ashes and the death that’s over there in the East Coast and especially in the Northeast,” King said during his final debate in Mason City, Iowa. “But not one big shot to just open up the checkbook, because they spent it on Gucci bags and massage parlors and everything you can think of in addition to what was necessary,” he said later, referring to Hurricane Katrina.
When Hurricane Katrina stuck the Gulf Coast in 2005, King voted to immediately send $10.5 billion to the disaster zone. King later balked at a second installment of nearly $52 billion for things like temporary trailer homes and preparing for future disasters. He was one of 11 congressmen to vote against the additional flood relief.
“Can you imagine in the middle of a disaster to ask for appropriations for mitigating future disasters?” King said in the debate. “That’s why I said no on that second round of appropriations for Katrina…because they spent it on Gucci bags and massage parlors and everything you can think of — in addition to what was necessary.”
Christie Vilsak — King’s Democratic opponent — responded immediately to the Gucci comment:
“Comments like that, Congressman King, are heartless. You were one of 11 congresspeople who voted against flood relief in Hurricane Katrina and you said it was the proudest vote that you ever took.”
Calling King’s opinions “extreme,” Vilsak notes:
“I hope that he will show the kind of kindness that Iowans do when we take care of people and when we have a disaster here as we have in past years with flooding. How can we expect people to come in and take care of our disasters if we’re not willing to come in and take care of theirs?”
King further explained his actions during an October 23 debate aired on Iowa Public Television.
“I said [regarding Katrina relief] that there will be all kinds of wasted funds.” King added, “There’s no plan to spend it. I got beaten up on by many of the newspapers around, but I stood on that and I said it’s a principled vote and it will be easier to defend every day.”
King notes that he feels the same this time around, in the midst of Hurricane Sandy. The congressman said that he will “stand against efforts to ‘just throw a dart at the dartboard and say’ what funding is needed to deal with Sandy’s impact on the East Coast.” More planning is required so that money doesn’t go to waste.
When push comes to shove, however, it was King who was willing to look into donating some of his campaign money to the Sandy relief funds. Vilsack refused, noting that her campaign money “was already spent.” King gave a tentative yes, saying:
“The first thing I thought was yes and the second thing was, I should ask my donors, because they’re really the people who have contributed that money. So I don’t think I can answer that unless I do. My instinct would be, why not pull the plug on it right now? But I don’t think that’s going to happen and I would have to go to my donors before I could say completely yes.”
Tuesdays debate was the last one for the pair before the November 6 election.