When it comes to earmarks—lawmakers championing and spending on their favorite projects—Congress has gone on a diet. It’s not the “Biggest Loser” type of drop, but earmarks have declined 10.2 percent from the 2009 fiscal year.
That number comes from the 2010 Congressional Pig Book, published Wednesday by the watchdog group the which has tracked pork-barrel spending and singled out the most skilled legislators and egregious projects, including candidates for the “Oinker” award, in that arena for two decades.
This year, CAGW has named Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) the "king of pork." According to the Pig Book, Cochran is responsible for 240 earmarks costing $490 million.
In a prepared statement from Cochran's office, the senator said that he "continued to advocate for meritorious programs," omitted from President Obama's budget.
Cochran also said, "Those requests were vetted to ensure that the funds were for lawful and legitimate purposes and would serve the public interest."
Total pork for the defense appropriations bill was 59 percent—or 35 anonymous projects worth $6 billion. Overall, the 9,129 projects this year cost $16.5 billion in taxpayer dollars, and reflected a 15.5 percent decrease in spending.
“While it’s good news, it’s still above the historical average,” Tom Schatz, president of CAGW, told CNBC Wednesday, referring to the reduction in pork spending.
Schatz added, “And it’s still not at the level that President Obama promised when he took office, which was $7.8 billion.” (Watch video of Schatz's interview with Erin Burnett on "Street Signs" here.)
It is the President’s party, the Democrats, plus a healthy dose of public outrage, that deserve credit for the reforms in government earmark spending.
The Democrats effected a rule change in 2008 that a lawmaker’s name must appear next to the appropriation for his or her pet project.
Among the Oinkers: $4.48 million for wood utilization research and $465 million for an F-35 jet engine the Pentagon says it doesn’t want.