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'Pig Book': Congressional 'pork' hits $19.6 billion in 2009

Citizens Against Government Waste released its annual report on 'pork barrel' projects Tuesday.

By Staff writer, Staff writer / April 14, 2009

Both Senate majority leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have expressed support for some earmarks. But overall, congressional Democrats agree that earmarks should be fewer and more transparent. This year has seen a 14 percent increase in pork spending over 2008.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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Capitol Hill lawmakers added 10,160 pet projects – aka “pork barrel” projects – to this year's government spending, fewer than in the previous budget cycle but at a higher total cost.

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That's the bottom line from the Pig Book, a list of member projects inserted in annual spending bills, released Tuesday by Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW). The watchdog group, which has issued the Pig Book each year since 1991, calls it “the book Washington doesn’t want you to read.”

For the record: The 10,160 projects – valued at $19.6 billion – represent a 14 percent increase in the cost to taxpayers over last year's spending on “pork.” That's even though the number of projects went down 12.5 percent during the same period.

“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,” said CAGW president Tom Schatz in a briefing Tuesday. “Sadly, the hard numbers from the 2009 appropriations bills tell a different story. The current Democratic congressional majority is following the same trajectory as their Republican predecessors. They came into power promising to cut earmarks and made a big show of it during their first two years. However, as the 2009 Pig Book amply illustrates, pork-barrel spending is growing fast.”

Ferreting out sponsors of congressional earmarks was once devilishly complex. But as of fiscal year 2008, Congress has required members to identify their own earmarks. Does that mean the Pig Book is obsolete?

Hardly, reformers say, because the issue now is enforcement.

“Until fiscal year 2008, we never saw a name next to an earmark. That was a watershed moment for us and taxpayers, to see a project with a name next to it,” says David Williams, CAGW vice president of policy. “Unfortunately, this year we saw a little backsliding with more anonymous earmarks, especially in defense.”

Of the 10,160 projects is this year's Pig Book, CAGW identified 221 earmarks worth $7.8 billion that were funded in violation of Congress's own transparency rules.

As in years past, Alaska leads the nation with $221 million in earmarks, or $322 per capita. Hawaii, at $302 million in earmarks, or $235 per capita, ranks No. 2.