Scientists have discovered a lotion that can save the lives of U.S. soldiers exposed to chemical weapons — a product vastly superior to the standard-issue decontamination powder.
Naturally, the Defense Department wants to scrap the powder and switch to the more-effective lotion.
But there's a problem: After being lobbied by the companies making the powder, several members of Congress pushed through two earmarks worth $7.6 million that forced the military for the past two years to keep buying the inferior product.
The product, known as M291, is made from a resin sold exclusively by a Pennsylvania chemical company, which is then processed into powder by a New York company, then assembled into individual kits at a facility in Arkansas.
Among the lawmakers who championed the earmarks are Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.; Arlen Specter, R-Pa.; and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.
Clinton, who is poised to become secretary of state, received nearly $7,000 in campaign donations from the beneficiaries of these earmarks in recent years. Specter got more than $47,000.