Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Big Bad Wolf

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) authored legislation prohibiting NASA from having bilateral contact with China. Image source: Washington Post.

Good riddance.

Invoking Jesus and Watergate felon Charles Colson, Virginia congressman Frank Wolf announced today he will not seek re-election in 2014.

To quote from his press release:

As a follower of Jesus, I am called to work for justice and reconciliation, and to be an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. I plan to focus my future work on human rights and religious freedom — both domestic and international — as well as matters of the culture and the American family. My passion for these issues has been influenced by the examples of President Ronald Reagan, former Congressmen Jack Kemp and Tony Hall, Chuck Colson, and the life of 18th century Member of Parliament William Wilberforce.

Wolf chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees NASA's budget, which puts him in a powerful position to meddle with government space policy.

In July, Wolf and Alabama congressman Robert Aderholt attempted to interfere in NASA's proposed lease of Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A. SpaceX and Blue Origin submitted bids, but Blue Origin has no current use for the pad. Blue Origin protested the bid process, backed by United Launch Alliance which is a partership of SpaceX competitors Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

During the 2012 election campaign cycle, Wolf received $10,000 from Lockheed Martin and $6,000 from Boeing, according to OpenSecrets.org. In the current cycle, he's received $3,000 from Lockheed Martin and $1,000 from Boeing.

To many NASA observers, Wolf is best known for authoring the legislation that prohibits NASA from having contact with the Chinese space agency. Section 1340 of the 2011 Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act:

SEC. 1340. (a) None of the funds made available by this division may be used for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or the Office of Science and Technology Policy to develop, design, plan, promulgate, implement, or execute a bilateral policy, program, order, or contract of any kind to participate, collaborate, or coordinate bilaterally in any way with China or any Chinese-owned company unless such activities are specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of enactment of this division.

(b) The limitation in subsection (a) shall also apply to any funds used to effectuate the hosting of official Chinese visitors at facilities belonging to or utilized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Wolf has harassed NASA Administrator Charles Bolden over the last four years with demands to explain any incidental contacts the agency had with China.

In March 2012, Wolf sent Bolden a letter asking for an explanation of why other International Space Station agencies had discussed including China.

Click the arrow to watch on YouTube the March 22, 2013 House Appropriations space subcommittee hearing.

This year, on March 22 Wolf grilled Bolden for over two hours about allegations that a NASA contractor had employed a Chinese spy. Wolf himself had originated the allegations which had led to the arrest of Bo Jiang earlier that month. The charges were dismissed, but Jiang did plead guilty to a lesser charge that he had used a NASA laptop to store inappropriate materials — pornography.

Wolf declined to comment, and to my knowledge has never apologized for ruining Mr. Jiang's life.

In 1995, Wolf was “taken in by spurious claims that human fetuses were considered a rare delicacy by many Chinese gourmands.”

It's a long way to January 2015, when we'll find out who succeeds Wolf as chair of the subcommittee. Whomever it is, they'll have to go a long way to top Mr. Wolf as a nutty guardian of OldSpace pork.


  1. As a recovering politician I would like to recount an incident that occurred in 2007 or so. As a county chairman of an small party in New York (a fusion state), we had been helpful in electing a congress critter. I had been invited down to his swearing in and I accepted as we really were quite proud of our backing of this particular poll. While sitting in his office prior to the swearing in, I listened to him conduct some business with a lobbyist. He wasn't getting money for himself (that would have been illegal from his government office). He was getting money for an Oklahoma congressman of the opposite party whose favor he was currying. So the $16K noted is possibly the tip of the iceberg. God knows how much he got for others or who he arranged to get a job for, etc. etc. These guys are interested in staying in office at all costs. What they do in there committees is important to them but as a means to the ultimate end of reelection. This one is gone. Lets hope Space X has increased it's lobbying budget. The next one will need some encouragement.

  2. Far more important to space advocates than what political party controls the chairmanship of this committee, which of course is fully determined by which party controls the House, should be what their positions are for future missions for NASA. Wolf is a strong supporter for commercial space which is the only way space flight will ever become routine. He also supports a return to the Moon, which almost all space advocates, aside from those who hold NASA administration positions, support.
    The incoming Culbertson also supports this. Moreover Culbertson supports landing missions to Europa, which could lead to the Earth-shattering discovery of life on another planet. That he is a Republican, which of course he has to be, is irrelevant.

    Bob Clark