Taxpayer Watchdog Blasts Congress'?'Pork Odyssey'

July 7, 2008 - 8:27 PM

(CNSNews.com) - U.S. taxpayers treated 300 Alaskans to a $400,000 parking lot and walkway last year. But the taxpayers were also generous to the Iowa Communication Network fiber optic demonstration project, generous to the tune of $4 million.

Last year was a banner year for taxpayer generosity as their elected representatives in Washington approved $18.5 billion for special hometown projects, according to the taxpayer advocate group, Citizens Against Government Waste.

Every year, CAGW tracks what it considers Congress' pork barrel spending habits. Wednesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Rep. Ed Royce (R-Ca.) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) joined CAGW - and three live pigs - at a press conference to unveil the 2001 Congressional Pig Book.

Thomas A. Schatz, CAGW president, called fiscal year 2001, which stretches from October 2000 through September 2001, the "biggest, fattest and most expensive pork barrel year in American history."

"The biggest winners in the pork-barrel derby - Alaska and Hawaii - are the states of Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens and the committee's number two Democrat, Sen. Daniel Inouye," said Schatz. The projects for Stevens' home state cost $766 for every American citizen. Inouye's projects cost $392 per citizen, according to Schatz.

"Sen. Stevens' per capita total is 30 times the national average," said Schatz. "That's either very impressive or extremely gluttonous, depending on one's point of view."

Stevens, who was not present at the event, took exception to being labeled a pork barrel spender. "What appears to be pork to CAGW is a lifeline for survival to Alaskans battling to survive after eight years of Clinton administration shut downs of our basic industries," said Stevens, referring to restrictions placed on fishing and timber industries in his state.

"I challenge anyone to establish these items were either wasteful or fraudulent," said Stevens.

The expenditures that typically make the pig book include projects that serve only a local or special interest, or are requested by only one chamber of Congress, or greatly exceed either the president's budget request or the previous year's funding. Of the $18.5 billion CAGW labeled pork projects, CAGW highlighted 433 projects for its book, totaling $3.5 billion.

"The public needs to know that they were obligated to shoulder the burden for $3.5 billion in unrequested, low-priority projects last year," said McCain.

"Taxpayers should be outraged that their hard-earned dollars are being spent on projects like the [$12.5 million] National Automotive Center."

McCain also expressed outrage at projects like the $1,500,000 Vulcan Monument (Alabama), the $1,250,000 Aleutian Pribilof church repairs (Alaska), and the $1,130,000 wood utilization laboratory in Sitka (Alaska).