U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-Bayside, said he plans to introduce legislation that would prevent states from providing license plate revenue to groups that advocate the election or defeat of candidates running for public office.
The congressman said his bill would also cut funds from three federal highway programs to states that send money earned through the sale of vanity plates to partisan political organizations.
“Using official government resources to help bankroll an explicit political agenda, whether on the right or left, is flat out wrong,” said Ackerman, who plans to introduce the bill in early May.
His legislation would follow in the wake of the passage of a bill by the Arizona State Legislature to create a special license plate featuring a rattlesnake emblem and a picture of the Gadsden Flag, which reads “Don’t Tread On Me.”
The image has been adopted as a symbol of the Tea Party. Arizona’s Legislature is Republican-controlled.
The bill was sent to Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday.
“It seems that the GOP in Arizona is attempting to do nothing more than create a slush fund for its Tea Party friends,” Ackerman said. “It’s a scheme that smacks of cronyism and should not be allowed to become law.”
The Long Island Tea Party could not be reached for comment.
The congressman said proceeds from the sale of the vanity plates would be directed to Tea Party groups.
The bill to create the plate, which was sponsored by state Sen. Don Shooter, R-Ariz., mandates that $17 out of every $25 annual plate fee must go to a fund that a state committee would use to promote the Tea Party’s principles.
Texas has already approved similar plates, while South Carolina, Nevada and Virginia are currently considering adopting them. No revenue would be directed to the Tea Party caucus in those states.
Under Ackerman’s bill, a state’s funds from the Highway System, Surface Transportation Program and Interstate Maintenance would be cut 15 percent if they do not comply.