Politics & Government

Does congressman seek to help cheetahs or his daughter?

LEXINGTON, Ky. _ U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., is sponsoring a bill to give $5 million a year to conservation groups that work overseas on behalf of endangered "great cats and rare canids," such as cheetahs, lions and Ethiopian wolves.

One group interested in applying, should Rogers' bill become law, is the Namibia-based Cheetah Conservation Fund.

Its grants administrator, Allison Rogers, is the congressman's daughter.

"Obviously, I'm waiting with bated breath," said Allison Rogers, who lives in Versailles. "It would help us a lot because the Cheetah Conservation Fund does not have a very big budget."

She and her father say there is no conflict of interest. The congressman from Southeast Kentucky long has been a champion of wildlife, she said.

"Dad is, I think, very involved in the environment, both in his district and on a global level," Allison Rogers said. "Neither his or my involvement in this is cheating the public or taking advantage of my dad's position."

In a prepared statement, a spokeswoman for Hal Rogers listed more than two dozen conservation groups other than the Cheetah Conservation Fund that could ask for the money, including the Jane Goodall Institute, the Humane Society of the United States and the Sierra Club.

"A wealth of organizations would benefit from these grants, and all would be able to apply without any congressional influence over the selection process," spokeswoman Stefani Zimmerman said.

"While the congressman's daughter is equally passionate about conservation, her recent work on behalf of the Cheetah Conservation Fund would never be a factor in the allocation of this funding," Zimmerman said. "To suggest otherwise is unfounded and completely false."

But a conservative budget watchdog said Hal Rogers should be more prudent.

"Who's against helping cheetahs? Nobody. But c'mon, this reeks of nepotism," said David Williams, vice president for policy at Citizens Against Government Waste in Washington. "This is the kind of thing that gets taxpayers so frustrated with Congress."

Read the complete story at kentucky.com