Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Oink Oink

The 2009 Pig Book, published by Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), is now available for purchase. The highlights are at the link. Not everyone agrees that all pork is wasteful spending. On the other hand, there is no excuse for much of it, but you be your own judge. I think we might all agree that this one is the poster child for why earmarks must end:

$6,430,414,000 for 142 anonymous projects. This accounted for 6.6 percent of the earmarks and 57 percent of the cost in the bill. There were several big-ticket items, including: $523,000,000 for advance procurement for 20 F-22A’s; $200,000,000 for advance procurement of the DDG-51 Naval Ship (the DDG-51 program received two earmarks worth $10,300,000 in fiscal year 2008); $88,000,000 for one C-40 aircraft; and $70,230,000 for one C-37B aircraft.

Those are ANONYMOUS earmarks, meaning no one was willing to claim sponsorship. If these projects are that important then the sponsors need to grow a pair and acknowledge paternity or maternity.

The CAGW provides snarky, occasionally pithy, comments in many cases. Take some of that with a large dose of salt, although there are several gems:

$95,000 by then-Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) for education programs at the Kohl Children’s Museum in Chicago. Exhibits at the museum include “doll day care,” where children can change diapers; face paint; and a discovery maze, a “colorful labyrinth of interconnected pods.” The Obama White House, with Emanuel at the helm, shrugged off the Omnibus Appropriations Act earmarks, calling them “last year’s business.”

$118,750 by Rep. Timothy Johnson (R-Ill.) for the Chanute Air Museum in Rantoul, Illinois. In a March 11, 2009 article on The News-Gazzette.com website Rep. Johnson claimed, “I was happy to advocate for this appropriation to help keep a small but vital part of our military aviation history alive. … Not everybody can travel to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Hopefully, this money will help generate more interest in a museum in our own backyard, run by volunteers, in the town of Rantoul that has suffered more than its share of economic setbacks in recent months.” With this logic there should be an aerospace museum in every district.

$380,000 by Senate appropriator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) for construction of a recreation and fairgrounds area in Kotzebue. That works out to $123.30 for each of Kotzebue’s 3,082 residents. Perhaps the town should have used the approximately $350,000 it spent on lobbying since 2000 for the fairgrounds, saving federal taxpayers a bundle. Even the Anchorage Daily News was outraged by the project: “The federal dollar that the stimulus might have spent on recreation projects is no different from the federal dollar spent on recreation in the pending appropriations bill. It all comes from the same pot of borrowed money.”

You'll love these two:

$11,000,000 for the East-West Center in Hawaii. In a moment of rare candor, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) admitted in 2007, after receiving an award from the East-West Center, that there were no congressional hearings before it was created in 1960. The State Department, which was given the responsibility and funding for establishing the East-West Center, knew nothing about it, the senator said, and for years tried to kill it by putting no funding for the center into its budget.

$2,900,000 for five projects by House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee member Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), including $200,000 for the Glendale Historic Entryway. The funding will go toward the preservation of historic buildings at the site. In the midst of an economic downturn, it was impossible for Rep. Pastor to defend these projects on economic terms. Instead, on February 25, 2009, the States News Service reported that Rep. Pastor simply said, “These projects are important to the people and communities of Arizona.”

Why let a little thing like an investigation get in the way?

$37,479,000 for 186 projects by Senate Labor/HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), including: $95,000 each for Mount Aloysius Community College for college preparatory exams; Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh for renovations and equipment; Washington and Jefferson College in Washington for science education outreach programs. In an amendment proposed during the Senate debate on the Omnibus Appropriations Act, Sen. Coburn targeted the three earmarks outlined here, which were obtained by a lobbying firm under federal investigation for making campaign donations in exchange for political favors for the firm’s clients. The vote on that amendment failed 43-52. No surprise: Sen. Specter voted against the amendment.

$6,422,625 for six projects for clients of a lobbying firm under federal investigation for making campaign donations in exchange for political favors for the firm’s clients, including: $1,189,375 for Solar Energy Windows and Smart IR Switchable Building Technologies in Pennsylvania, by Senate appropriator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), and Reps. Jason Altmire (D-Pa.) and Michael Doyle (D-Pa.); $951,500 for DIRECT Methanol Fuel Cell in Indiana, by House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.); and $951,500 for Adaptive Liquid Crystal Windows in Ohio, by House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee member Tim Ryan (D-Ohio). Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) offered an amendment to strip these earmarks from the Omnibus Appropriations Act, but the effort failed by a vote of 43 to 52.

All of which goes to show that Dems and Repubs are equal opportunity offenders where earmarks are concerned, and some are so tone deaf as to not notice (or care about) the economic or ethical issues of their actions.

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