Congress Appropriated $4.2 Billion in Earmarks this Year

Earmarks live on despite ban

Jeff Flake with Faye the pot bellied pig
Jeff Flake with Faye the pot bellied pig / AP
May 13, 2015

Congress has appropriated over $4 billion earmarks this year despite a ban on pork barrel spending, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) announced on Wednesday.

The group unveiled the 23rd edition of its Pig Book at the Phoenix Park Hotel near Capitol Hill, revealing millions in earmarks for "fish passage," "embryo adoption awareness," and abstinence education.

"The 2015 Pig Book continues to prove that any earmark is a bad earmark," CAGW president Tom Schatz said. "At a time when members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and both sides of the Capitol continue to call for a restoration of earmarks, taxpayers should deliver a loud and clear message that it is time for earmarks to be permanently banned."

Congress has been operating under a self-imposed earmark moratorium since 2010. However, lawmakers have found ways to get around the moratorium.

CAGW found the cost of earmarks increased from $2.7 billion to $4.2 billion between fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

The report highlights $2.6 million earmarked for the Denali Commission, a 1998 program to build infrastructure in rural Alaska that President Obama wanted to eliminate in 2012.

"Since FY 2000, 26 projects worth $295.8 million have been earmarked for the Denali Commission, including requests by Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee member Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska), Sen. Mark Begich (D., Alaska), and the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R., Alaska)," according to the Pig Book.

The commission’s inspector general called for his own agency to be eliminated in 2013.

"I have concluded that [the Denali Commission] is a congressional experiment that hasn’t worked out in practice," Inspector General Mike Marsh said in a letter to Congress in 2013. "I recommend that Congress put its money elsewhere."

CAGW noted, "The commission’s statutory authorization expired on October 1, 2009."

The report also includes $4 million for "fish passage and fish screens" appropriated through the Energy Department, $1 million for "Embryo Adoption Awareness Campaign" through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), $4 million for an "aquatic plant control" program, and a $5 million earmark for "abstinence education" in FY 2015.

The M1 Abrams tank has continued to receive funding throughout the earmark moratorium, with Congress appropriating $120 million for upgrades for the tank that the Army does not want.

"One reason for the objections to the earmark is the fact that more than 2,000 M1s are parked in a California desert and the Pentagon would rather design the next generation of tanks than upgrade the M1," Schatz said.

Sens Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.), John McCain (R., Ariz.), Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), Joni Ernst (R., Iowa), and Rep. Tom McClintock (R., Calif.) appeared at the event, which also featured "Faye," a pot-bellied pig brought along by CAGW.

Flake was successful in getting a selfie with Faye after some effort.