Earlier today, at a press conference at the Phoenix Park Hotel on Capitol Hill, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) divulged publicly 109 earmarks costing taxpayers $2.7 billion in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. This marks the second time CAGW has unearthed earmarks in the appropriations bills funding the federal government since Congress enacted an earmark moratorium in fiscal year 2011.
CAGW was joined at the press conference by Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Also in attendance were CAGW’s mascot, "PigFoot," and two live pot-bellied pigs, Churchill and Annabelle, courtesy of the Pig Placement Network in New Jersey.
The 2014 Pig Book has already been featured in news stories nationwide, including on USAToday.com, RollCall.com and in a syndicated column by Cal Thomas that has appeared on FOXNews.com, among other news outlets. CAGW President Tom Schatz is scheduled to appear this afternoon on FOX News Channel’s “Your World with Neil Cavuto” at 4:20 p.m. EDT and on FOX Business Network’s “The Willis Report” at 5:00 p.m. EDT. Tom is also scheduled to appear tomorrow morning on FOX News Channel’s “FOX & Friends” at 6:15 a.m. EDT.
As RollCall.com noted, the release of the 2014 Pig Book is particularly timely, coming just a day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) joined a number of his colleagues in expressing support for scrapping the earmark moratorium. However, as CAGW has documented for 22 years now, earmarking perpetuates the culture of corruption in Washington and increases the cost of legislation for taxpayers.
The 2014 omnibus package was certified as earmark-free by Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio). Members of Congress will argue that their standards differ from the earmark criteria used in the Pig Book, but that has been true since the first Pig Book in 1991. The pork-free claim can also be challenged based on the inclusion of projects that have appeared in past appropriations bills as earmarks. In addition to meeting CAGW’s long-standing seven-point criteria, to qualify for inclusion in the 2014 Pig Book a project or program must have appeared in prior years as an earmark. The total number and cost of earmarks are, therefore, quite conservative.
The question for Senate and House leaders and the few individual members who can be directly identified as having requested earmarks in FY 2014 is: why were these projects previously considered earmarks, but not in 2014?
Unfortunately, the earmark moratorium has not only failed to eliminate earmarks, but also made the process patently less transparent. Since earmarks were deemed to be non-existent in the FY 2014 omnibus bill, there are no names of legislators, no list or chart of earmarks, and limited information on where and why the money will be spent. Earmarks were scattered throughout the legislative and report language, requiring substantial detective work to unearth each project. While the lower number and cost of earmarks are an improvement over prior years, transparency and accountability have regressed immeasurably.