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February 24, 2009

Same ol' pork barrel congress

Posted: 02:19 PM ET

pv_16959_00472On 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!

Filed under: Drew Griffin • Special Investigations Unit


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GC Cole   February 25th, 2009 3:08 am ET

I went to the House Budget page and followed your instructions...It is crashed. I updated my adobe reader to make sure it was not my computer but everything comes back "File Damaged Unable to Continue"

Guess they are have a problem with the "We The People" thing again over at the House. Queen Nancy and Dirty Hairy do not like it when the people look at what they are doing.

Wrong I am a life long Democrat. I know a bad dog when I see one and those two are a pair.

Good reporting. Please ask them to get the site back up so we can watch and comment on the games.


Bob Walker   February 25th, 2009 11:21 am ET

This is the type of reporting i have always expected from CNN and elevates them from the other cable news networks. More factual
investigative reporting and less emotional or frivolous chit chat by
your analysts would restore CNN as my favorite channel. I do not
need to be reminded, harassed, and irritated by being reminded that
I am in the "situation room", I am watching "the best political team on
television", and I am not impressed that an analyst can blog or twitter.

I watch CNN for stories like this one. honest, informative, and delivered
by a person that carries authority and knowledge in their delivery.


Uncle Sam in Calif   February 25th, 2009 2:52 pm ET

I am outraged at the waste, dont these politicians on both sides understand that our country needs to grab this opportunity to institute real change in Washington. This type of mass momentum on multiple issues hasnt been seen in our lifetime. If we as a country dont jump on this bandwagon of change, I fear it would be several generations before we get the stars lined up again. We should institute a score card for each politician grading them on identified waste that they put a stop to, before they get their paycheck in the mail. I bet the defict would drop real quick. Just a thought.


ANNETTE   February 26th, 2009 1:34 pm ET

I'VE HAD IT WITH ALL OUR POLITICAL B.S.. WE'RE BEING ASKED TO BE PATIENT. TOLD TO STICK IT OUT, WATCH OUR SPENDING ETC, ETC. MEANWHILE DETROIT IS CLOSING DOWN, PEOPLE ARE LOSING THEIR JOBS LEFT AND RIGHT, CANADIANS ARE TAKING THE HIGHER PAYING JOBS IN THE PORT HURON AREA (BORDING THE BRIDGE), AND WE MICHIGANDERS ARE SCRATCHING OUR HEADS TRYING TO FIGURE OUT HOW WE CAN KEEP OUR HOMES AND FEED OUR KIDS. MANY OF US KNOW THAT WE NEED TO MOVE ON AND OUT BUT CAN'T EVEN AFFORD TO DO THAT. WHY DON'T SOME OF OUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND PRESIDENT OFFER TO TAKE SOME PAY CUTS, MAYBE THAT WOULD HELP WITH OUR DEFICITE!!!!!!!!!!! IF THEY DON'T LIKE THAT IDEA THEN MAYBE THEY CAN SEND SOME $$$FOR FOOD AND HOUSING OUR WAY INSTEAD OF REPAIRING MORE AIRPORTS THAT DON'T REALLY NEED IT. WE ARE ALL VERY CONCERNED HERE IN PORT HURON MICHIGAN.


Lucy   March 5th, 2009 9:12 pm ET

You go Annette you have told it like it is. Let our elected officals go three months without a pay check . They may sing a different story.


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