It’s hard being a porker these days. Officially, Congress is not supposed to pass district-specific spending clauses that are tacked onto larger bills. These are called “earmarks.”
Earmarks are politically incorrect these days. But the political benefits for incumbents for local pork are high. But to cash in on the cash, a Congressman is supposed to get credit — politically speaking — for the pork.
What’s a Congressman to do?
One way to conceal the pork is to pile the pork into larger appropriations. This way, the media cannot follow the paper trail of pork.
There is a temporary moratorium on earmarks. It was imposed by Congress on itself in 2012. This means a moratorium on reported earmarks. The earmarks still multiply like rabbits.
There is an annual Pig Book published by the Committee Against Government Waste.
The supposed lack of earmarks resulted in a completely opaque process. Since earmarks were deemed to be non-existent, there were no names of legislators, no information on where and why the money will be spent, and no list or chart of earmarks in the appropriations bills or reports. Earmarks were scattered throughout the legislative and report language, requiring substantial detective work to unearth each project.
To track the earmarks, the government should enforce President Bush’s January 29, 2008 executive order. It requires federal agencies “to release all communications from members of Congress regarding any earmark.”
It is not a coincidence that past earmarked programs are being aggregated into a single sum that is in some cases tens of millions of dollars higher than the amount requested in the president’s budget. In November 2011, President Obama circulated a memo that reiterated the need for agencies to release letters from members of Congress that direct agency staff to fund particular projects.
Somehow, this information has not been forthcoming.
The latest installment of CAGW’s 21-year exposé of pork-barrel spending includes $255 million to upgrade the M1 Abrams tank, which is opposed by the Pentagon; $5,870,000 for the East-West Center, a pet project of Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), $3,388,000 for national fish hatchery system operations, and $3,000,000 for aquatic plant control.
Here are a few slices of choice pork.
$50,000,000 for the National Guard for Counter-Drug Program state plans. Formerly earmarked to individual states, the program, which allows for the use of military personnel in drug enforcement operations within the states, is now funded in one bundle as a work-around to the earmark moratorium. The Drug Enforcement Administration, with a budget of $2 billion, is already responsible for these activities. Since FY 2001, there have been 63 earmarks costing taxpayers $281.1 million for the National Guard Counter-Drug Program.
$8,000,000 for Global HIV/AIDS prevention. The Labor/HHS Appropriations Act of 2012 provided $2.3 billion for the HIV/AIDS Bureau for various assistance, treatment, and prevention programs. The Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act provided an additional $5.5 billion to the State Department for HIV/AIDS programs, making this earmark duplicative.
$111,099,000 for flood control by the Army Corps of Engineers, $9 million of which will go to “ongoing projects.” Since 1996, CAGW has unveiled 320 Corps of Engineers flood control earmarks worth a total of $523.4 million. In FY 2010, porkers in this category included Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Senate appropriators Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.).
$10,084,000 for the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal Dispersal Barrier, which has received a total of $14.2 million from nine earmarks since FY 1998.
$48,500,000 for the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium (NDPC), which is 109 percent more than the President’s $44.5 million budget request. The NDCP has received six earmarks worth a total of $197.4 million since FY 2005, including $105 million in that year.
$6,900,000 for UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter conversions. On its website, Sikorsky, the Connecticut-based manufacturer, describes the Black Hawk as “versatile, dependable, and rugged.” While those characteristics may be true of the aircraft, they also apply to Congress’s penchant for earmarking funds for Black Hawks. Since 1996, there have been 18 earmarks totaling $571.7 million for Black Hawk upgrades, modifications, and purchases.”
For dozens of choice slices, click the link.