WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) released its 2016 Congressional Pig Book, the 24th edition of the group’s exposé on pork-barrel spending. CAGW President Tom Schatz was joined at the Phoenix Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), House Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill Flores (R-Texas), and Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.). Also in attendance was a live pot-bellied pig named Faye from Richmond, Virginia.
For the fourth time since Congress enacted an earmark moratorium in fiscal year (FY) 2011, CAGW has unearthed earmarks in appropriations bills. The number of earmarks increased 17 percent between FY 2015 and FY 2016, from 105 to 123, and the total cost jumped by 21 percent, from $4.2 billion to $5.1 billion. While those figures are far below the record $29 billion 10 years ago in FY 2006, and there are no earmarks for screwworm research or teapot museums, the 2016 Congressional Pig Book reveals that earmarks are on the rise again, and this time with very little transparency. Since 1991, Congress has approved 110,442 earmarks costing taxpayers $323.1 billion.
The latest installment of CAGW’s 24-year exposé of pork-barrel spending includes an $8 million earmark for the aquatic plant control program, double the $4 million earmarked in FY 2015. Since 1994, there have been 22 earmarks worth a total of $38.1 million for aquatic plant control projects, including three by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and one each by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).
Another curious congressional expenditure was $56.6 million for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program (HIDTA) at the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Originally intended for border states, members of Congress have used earmarks to expand the program to non-border states. Since FY 1997, 30 earmarks costing taxpayers $269.8 million have been provided for HIDTA programs; 16 of those earmarks were directed to programs in 10 states, only two of which are border states.
The 2016 Pig Book features another $40 million to upgrade the M1 Abrams tank, which is opposed by the Pentagon. Over the objections of senior DOD officials, members of Congress have for many years been earmarking funds for the M1 upgrade program. Although the tank plant is located in Lima, Ohio, its suppliers are spread across the country, which helps to explain the widespread support.
The East-West Center in Hawaii received a $5.9 million earmark. The center is intended to promote better relations with Pacific and Asian nations. The center was established by Congress in 1960 with no congressional hearings, and over the State Department’s opposition. For years, the State Department tried to eliminate the center by not requesting funding in the department’s annual budget requests. In a December 17, 2015 press release, Senate Appropriations Committee member Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) claimed credit for securing funding at a level $5.9 million above the Administration’s request.
The Department of Defense received a $20 million earmark for alternative energy research. Since FY 2004, Congress has used the defense appropriations bill as a vehicle to insert 26 earmarks worth $274.9 million for this purpose, despite the fact that the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act supplies billions of dollars for alternative energy research every year. There is no need for the Pentagon to be engaged in research for alternative energy.
“The 2016 Pig Book shows that earmarks are making an unwelcome comeback in Washington,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz. “At a time when some members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol continue to call for a restoration of earmarks, other members have introduced legislation to make the earmark moratorium permanent. The 2016 Pig Book shows once again that any earmark is a bad earmark. Taxpayers should deliver a loud and clear message that it is time for earmarks to be banned, once and for all.”
Citizens Against Government Waste is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.