Election 2008


Pork Spending Looms Large in Election Year

February 18, 2008 09:49 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
With John McCain having abstained from earmark spending, pork is one issue likely to put the Democratic presidential nominee on the defensive.

30-Second Summary

Congress allocated $18.3 billion in earmark spending during fiscal year 2008. Disparaged by President George W. Bush in his State of the Union address last month, earmarks, also known as “pork,” are attached by congressmen to appropriations bills to direct money to pet projects. This circumvents established budgetary procedures.

However, some argue that earmark funding is not used only for constituency-pleasing contrivances. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) pointed out in August that the bipartisan Iraq Study Group was funded with an earmark.

Across the country, earmarks have also been used to improve military bases, refurbish historical landmarks and support police departments.

But the suspicion that pork barrel politics is an abuse of privilege remains on both sides of the aisle. “The earmarking process in Congress has become a symbol of a broken Washington,” said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Longtime House member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) holds similar views. A statement on his Web site reads, “Congressional spending on earmarks is out of control.” Waxman is now the 18th member of Congress to officially abstain from adding earmarks to legislation.

Another is Republican presidential contender John McCain, who will likely wield his abstention against the eventual Democratic presidential nominee. Democrats will make much of the reported drop in earmark spending that followed their winning the congressional majority.

Although both Democratic candidates use earmarks, Barack Obama believes that earmark money should only be spent on public institutions. Hillary Clinton says that earmarks are a vital way to ensure federal money reaches her home state of New York.

Clinton’s spending on earmarks is nearly four times that of Obama’s. Indeed, she is in the top 10 spenders on earmarks and the only one of that number not to belong to an approprations committee.

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) was the top pork spender last year, with a total of $345 million in earmarks, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Headline Link: ‘Candidates’ Earmarks Worth Millions’

Background: The definition of ‘earmark’

Opinion & Analysis: Earmarks, a bipartisan issue

Historical Context: Earmarked spending since 1991

Reference: Tools to track congressional spending

Related Topics: Lawmakers and EarmarkWatch.org


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