Get ready for some squealing. The “Congressional Pig Book,” an annual exposé of some of the worst pork barrel projects conceived by Congress, is due out this week. The report’s release is never a happy occasion inside the Beltway, but this year it’s even less so, given the spotlight that lobbying scandals have shone on the practice of larding up spending bills with pet projects.
Gluttons for punishment on the staff of Citizens Against Government Waste for 16 years have been picking their way through congressional spending bills, culling out the projects that meet their definition of “pork.” The group uses a seven-point, procedurally based criteria, since arguing the merits of these pet spending projects with their congressional sponsors or chief beneficiaries is futile. In the eyes of those “bringing home the bacon,” or those gorging on it in the district or state, it’s all Grade A.
Believe it or not, there is a set of rules for how Congress should spend money; rules that are intended to ensure these dollars are spent on legitimate national priorities. But the rules are widely flouted, and CAGW flags projects that skirt them.
The good news in this year’s Pig Book — advance copies have been sent to some media — is the number of projects fell from 13,997 in fiscal 2005 to 9,963 in fiscal 2006, a 29 percent drop. But the bite on the taxpayer in terms of dollars rose 6.2 percent, to $29 billion, from $27.3 billion. And that’s an obscene amount of money — and an egregious abuse of the power of the purse strings — even by Washington standards. In the 16 years CAGW has been ferreting out the fat, it’s documented $241 billion in pork.
Here’s a sneak peek of some of the projects in this year’s Pig Book, all of which are obviously high-ranking national priorities:
• $273,000 to promote community gardens in New York City;
• $234,000 to support the National Wild Turkey Federation, which promotes wild turkey hunting as a more healthy lifestyle;
• $13.5 million for economic development activities in Ireland, some of which went to promote the World Toilet Summit;
• $350,000 to Chicago’s “Greenstreets Program,” which hangs 950 flower baskets around the windy city;
• $400,000 to establish the American Music archives at the University of Mississippi;
• $450,000 for gardening on the eastern front of the U.S. capitol;
• $1.8 million for the MountainMade Foundation, which promotes the sale of Appalachian region handicrafts over the Internet;
• $500,000 for the Earth Conservation Corps;
• $50,000 for the Capitol Hill Baseball and Softball League;
• $550,000 to help Detroit raze gutted buildings;
• $100,000 for construction of the Adirondack Golden Goal Complex, a facility that hosts youth soccer tournaments in New York State;
• $500,000 for the Sparta Teapot Museum in Sparta, N.C.;
• $250,000 for the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo, Iowa.
Shining the spotlight on these and thousands of similarly ridiculous pork projects has not always won CAGW friends in high places. “All they are is a bunch of psychopaths,” according to Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who routinely ranks among Congress’ most prodigious porkers.
“Those peckerwoods don’t know what they’re doing,” said West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, who CAGW has crowned as The King of Pork. “They’re not being realistic.”
Realistic or not, the group is clearly doing important work, exposing the massive squandering of tax dollars on projects that don’t deserve federal support. The complete report will be out today. Readers can get a copy, or learn more, by going to www.cagw.org