$2 Million Super-Paint Funding Questioned

Sherwin Williams was one of the lucky winners in a recent round of Congressional funding. It got an earmark for two million in tax dollars to develop a super-paint that can kill toxic bacteria. But it's a project some critics say isn't even feasible.

But all the company had to do to get the money was ask its hometown congresswoman, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-Ohio.

Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif., challenged the earmark on the House floor.

"What investigations, what research has been done to determine that this technology could be effective and is worth $2 million in taxpayer funds?" Campbell asked.

An earmark is a grant of money without normal public review, CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports. Members of Congress often deliver them to hometown projects or companies knowing little about the details or the value for the tax dollar.

What they do know is that bringing home bacon gets them votes - and job security.

"Those earmarks to local companies can be the worst kind of government spending," says Ryan Alexander, a taxpayer advocate.

"By singling out one company without looking at what the marketplace has available, we don't know that we're getting the best product. We don't know that we're getting the best value for our money," said Alexander, president of the group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Myron Zebrak, who works for a Sherwin Williams competitor, said he was incensed when he heard the multi-billion dollar paintmaker got an earmark worth millions.

"I think the money isn't well spent and it all ends up in the Congressman's district. It's not fair," said Zebrak, who is a coating manufacturer.

But when asked about their hometown earmarks, members of Congress can get touchy.

Tubbs Jones refused CBS News interview requests so a crew found her at her Capitol Hill office.

"Don't you ever walk up to me like this," she told Attkisson when approached on Capitol Hill by a CBS News crew. "Young lady, turn the camera off."

"You can't order us to turn our cameras off," Attkisson replied.

"Okay, then you can't … I can't be forced to talk. Thank you very much," Tubbs Jones said.

"I've been asking for an interview," Attkisson explained.

"Don't play me like that," Tubbs Jones said.

And when Tubbs Jones grabbed Attkisson's wrist, Attkisson said, "Please take your hands off me."

"I'm not gonna take, I didn't mean any offense," Tubbs Jones said. "OK. Wanna have a conversation?"

Attkisson replied: "I just want to ask you a couple of questions about the Sherwin Williams earmark."

"Give me a few moments and I'll talk to you," Tubbs Jones said.

A few minutes later, Tubbs Jones agreed to talk, and said she gave Sherwin Williams the earmark because the company told her it's the most qualified.

Does she have a problem with taking Sherwin Williams' word for it?

"All I can tell you is that Sherwin Williams has a reputation for honesty, doing great work in my community and they came with a proposal that looked good to me," Tubbs Jones said. "They showed me testing, they showed me a video and I said 'let's go for it!'"

Sherwin Williams wouldn't agree to an interview, but said under their concept they'll only recieve a portion of the $2 million. The rest will go to partners in the project.

Whether or not a new super-paint is ever invented, there's one broad brush of truth - Tubbs Jones managed to created $2 million worth of goodwill in her home district.

And at this point Sherwin Williams hasn't had to compete for the money.

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    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.