Carolina Journal News Reports
RALEIGH — The number of congressional pork barrel projects may have reached a seven-year low last year, but that didn’t mean frugal spending habits were here to stay, according to the latest report from the government watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste.
CAGW yesterday released its 2008 version of the “Congressional Pig Book,” which catalogued 11,610 total pork projects, also called earmarks, amounting to $17.2 billion during the 2008 fiscal year.
That’s the second-highest amount of earmark spending since the group began keeping track in 1991 and a significant increase over the 2,658 projects and $13.2 billion in spending identified for the 2007 fiscal year.
“When Congress adopted earmark reforms last year, there was hope that the number and cost of earmarks would be cut in half. By any measure, that has not occurred,” said CAGW president Tom Schatz.
“Americans do not send their hard-earned tax dollars to Washington so that Sen. Daniel Inouye can bring home $173 million in defense pork and receive the Pacific Fleeced Award, or get sapped by $4.8 million going to wood utilization research, on which the government has spent $91 million since 1985,” Schatz said.
Since 1991, lawmakers have lined appropriation bills with more than 90,000 projects and $271 billion in pork.
Although national earmark spending was up in 2008, North Carolina improved its record over past years, ranking 39th with $216 million in pork attributed to Tar Heel lawmakers. Alaska, Hawaii, North Dakota, and West Virginia were the top four spenders; Arizona, New York, California, and Ohio were the thriftiest.
Among the North Carolina congressional delegation, the CAGW report singled out Democratic U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler and Republican U.S. Rep. Walter Jones for their earmark activity.
Shuler was responsible for securing nearly $6 million in taxpayer funds for “Great Smokey National Park, North Shore Road Settlement,” while Jones cornered a $147,000 earmark for completion of a museum in Hatteras dedicated to the numerous shipwrecks that have taken place off the North Carolina coast.
Jones is one of four Tar Heel congressional lawmakers who say they have sworn off earmarks for the 2009 fiscal year, according to the Club for Growth. The others are Reps. Virginia Foxx, R-5th; Patrick McHenry, R-10th; and Republican Sen. Richard Burr.
The 2006 “Big Book” featured a $500,000 earmark for a teapot museum in the small mountain town of Sparta, N.C as one of CAGW’s top “oinkers” of the year. Foxx and Burr helped secure federal funding for the project.
This year, some of the top “oinker” awards went to Rep. Mike Thompson, D-CA, for a $211,509 earmark in olive fruit fly research in Paris, France; Democratic Montana Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester for a $148,950 earmark for the Montana Sheep Institute; and Rep. Virgil Goode, R-VA, for a $98,000 earmark to develop a walking tour of Boydton, Va.
Some other examples of earmark spending cited in the report include:
David N. Bass is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.