February 24, 2009
Posted: 02:19 PM ET
On the same day the President called on the government to undergo fiscal restraint, Congress unveiled a bill revealing where all those earmarks have been hiding. The pork-laden omnibus catch-all, held over from last year, contains no less than 8,570 earmarks.
The pork projects are still being deciphered by various watchdog groups, and Republicans are railing at the fact that the Congressional leadership seems to have violated its transparency rules by jamming these all in a last minute bill, but a quick view has me scratching my head in disbelief at both parties.
After two years of criticism aimed at pork barrel spending, the defiant members of Congress are unabashedly asking for more. Republicans and Democrats alike are looking for taxpayer dollars for projects no one could call necessary. Like what? David Obey, the House Appropriations Chair, wants to rebuild a Carnegie library building in Medford, Wisconsin, and he wants to reconstruct "Historic Lighthouses" in the Apostle Island National Lakeshore.(Historic lighthouse means no one uses them anymore, they are simply nice looking relics)
Nancy Pelosi wants money for Angels Island State Park for a center to research genealogy. A Republican, Robert Aderholt of Alabama, wants $47,500 federal taxpayer dollars to build a perimeter fence around the Rountree Airport to keep the animals away. Rountree airport listed a whopping 14 aircraft based there in 2008. There is not a single air taxi or air carrier that uses this dinky little one runway airstrip. But the request pales in comparison with an old favorite up in Alaska that simply won't go away. Akutan is a tiny island off Alaska that has a seasonal fish processing factory.
The owners of the factory gave money to now disgraced and ousted Senator Ted Stevens. We reported on Stevens' earmark request last year. This year, Stevens is gone but Akutan airport is back. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski wants you and I to spend $1-point-2 million dollars on the Akutan airport. Airports are a favorite of money. Another favorite of mine is Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, a true pro at earmarking bills. If Senator Byrd wants money for airports in West Virginia, he doesn't waste time explaining why. His earmark request in the transportation portion of the bill: $4,275,000 dollars. The explainer: "Airport improvement statewide." Effectively, just give me the money and West Virginia will determine where to spend it.
Last year I interviewed a somber, somewhat dejected Republican Senate veteran Orrin Hatch. When I asked him about earmarks and federal spending, he simply shook his head saying the arrogance of both sides of the aisle is quite frankly outrageous and depressing.
I'd like to know if somewhere in the White House our new President who promised change and hope, isn't shaking his head too. So how can you do your own investigative reporting to find your own Senate or Congressional pork? First, open up the House Appropriations committee link below.
Here's the list
This site will display the Omnibus bill. Each individual portion of the bill contains a segment labeled "statement". This is the center of all pork. Scroll down to read them all. Or, if you would like to search for a specific Representative or Senate request, hit control-f, then type in the name of the Senator or Member of Congress you are looking for.
If you opened the "statement" for the "transportation" section of the bill and searched "Murkowski", you would find the money being requested for Akutan airport by Sen. Lisa Murkowski. I know...it is not easy...but remember, just a few years ago all we got was a big stack of papers with no names attached. Happy hunting!
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