News: CJ Exclusives

Tar Heel Lawmakers Serve Up Pork in ’09

Delegation secures $228 million in earmarks, 5 percent jump from last year

North Carolina’s congressional delegation served up $228 million in pork barrel spending for fiscal 2009, a 5 percent jump from the previous year, according to the latest report from the government watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste.

CAGW’s 2009 “Congressional Pig Book,” released one day before hundreds of thousands of Americans took to the streets to protest wasteful government spending in a series of “tea parties,” catalogued 10,160 total pork projects, also called earmarks, amounting to $19.6 billion. Although the number of earmarks was down this year, the amount spent on those projects rose by 14 percent compared to fiscal 2008.

“Everyone in Washington has promised a new era of transparency and restraint in earmarks, from President Obama to the leaders of both parties in Congress. Sadly, the hard numbers from the 2009 appropriations bills tell a different story,” said CAGW president Tom Schatz in a press release.

Despite a pledge to reform the earmark system, President Obama last month signed a $410 billion omnibus appropriations bill laced with pork barrel spending. “I am signing an imperfect omnibus bill because it’s necessary for the ongoing functions of government, and we have a lot more work to do,” Obama said.

Tar heel pork

CAGW identified 173 earmarks secured for North Carolina, including $349,000 to study “swine and other animal waste management” and $190,000 for “sidewalk and streetscape improvements” in the Town of Fuquay-Varina. CAGW defines pork as a line item in an appropriations bill that allocates dollars in violation of established budgetary procedures.

U.S. Rep. David Price, D-4th, helped score the most earmarks among North Carolina representatives, followed by former Rep. Robin Hayes, R-8th. Price and Hayes secured a combined 34 earmarks totaling over $11 million in the omnibus spending bill alone, according to a report by Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Reps. Virginia Foxx, R-5th, and Patrick McHenry, R-10th, were the only Tar Heel lawmakers to pass on the pork. Rep. Walter Jones, R-3rd, was responsible for only one earmark: $2.4 million for a U.S. Navy cancer vaccine program in California.

Foxx, Jones, and McHenry have promised to abstain from earmarks. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., made the same pledge, but the CAGW report shows that Burr played a role in securing 52 earmarks in appropriations bills this fiscal year.

CAGW attributed 78 earmarks — the most for any North Carolina lawmaker — to former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C. Dole lost her re-election bid last year to Democrat Kay Hagan, who took office in January. CAGW did not attribute any earmarks to Hagan.

Overall, North Carolina slipped from 39th to 34th in state rankings of pork. Alaska, Hawaii, and North Dakota were the three top spenders on earmarks per capita.

Pork across the fruited plain

Earmark spending increased nationwide for the third straight year, with a swath of questionable line items making a comeback. After disappearing from appropriations bills in 2007, millions for “wood utilization research” showed up in 2008 and again this year. Other expenditures include:

•$2.2 million to study grape genetics;
•$1.8 million for swine odor and manure management;
•$469,000 for a fruit fly facility;
•$413,000 for peanut research; and
•$254,000 for the Montana Sheep Institute.

Appropriations bills also included $7.8 billion in “stealth” pork, meaning the earmarks had no representative or senator tied to them.

David N. Bass is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.