2017 Congressional Pig Book


The Congressional Pig Book is CAGW's annual compilation of the pork-barrel projects in the federal budget. A "pork" project is a line-item in an appropriations bill that designates tax dollars for a specific purpose in circumvention of established budgetary procedures. To qualify as pork, a project must meet one of seven criteria that were developed in 1991 by CAGW and the Congressional Porkbusters Coalition.

Features: Summary | 2017 Database  
Historical Trends | Order a Copy | PDF

Infographic: 2017 Hall of Shame


2017 Pig Book Summary

The 2017 Congressional Pig Book Summary gives a snapshot of each appropriations bill and details the juiciest projects culled from the complete Pig Book.

Jump to an appropriations bill:


Introduction

Pork-barrel spending is alive and well in Washington, D.C., despite claims to the contrary. For the fifth time since Congress enacted an earmark moratorium that began in fiscal year (FY) 2011, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has unearthed earmarks in the appropriations bills.

In fact, members of Congress have steadily ramped up the use of earmarks in each year since the initiation of the earmark moratorium. The 2017 Congressional Pig Book exposes 163 earmarks in FY 2017, an increase of 32.5 percent from the 123 in FY 2016. The cost of earmarks in FY 2017 is $6.8 billion, an increase of 33.3 percent from the $5.1 billion in FY 2016. While the increase in cost over one year is disconcerting, the 106.1 percent increase over the $3.3 billion in FY 2012, the first year after the moratorium, is downright disturbing.

Publication of the 2017 Pig Book also marks 11 years since the record earmark amount of $29 billion in FY 2006. In order for earmarks to reach that level over the next decade, legislators would need to increase the cost of the items by just $2.3 billion annually. Unfortunately, this is not out of the question given the growth over the past five years.

That result will be even more likely if members of Congress like Reps. John Culberson (R-Texas), Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), and Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) prevail in their efforts to overturn the moratorium. On November 16, 2016, eight days after an election that was supposed to “drain the swamp” in Washington, they filed an amendment to “modify” the moratorium during a House Republican Conference meeting. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) proposed a delay of such a vote until the first quarter of 2017. The issue is still outstanding.

In the midst this debate, it is important to remember why the moratorium was deemed necessary. The movement gained traction because of a number of factors, including the tireless work of members of Congress such as Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.); high-profile boondoggles such as the Bridge to Nowhere; and a decade of scandals that resulted in jail terms for Reps. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) and Bob Ney (R-Ohio), and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The FY 2017 earmarks were again contained in a consolidated appropriations package, which presents its own challenges regarding how the taxpayers’ money is being spent. Throwing all the earmarks into one large bill makes it more difficult to identify and eliminate the projects than if Congress adhered to regular order and considered the 12 appropriations bills individually.

In FY 2017, as in each of the years following the establishment of the moratorium, there are fewer earmarks than in the peak years, but far more money was spent on average for each earmark and no detailed description was provided. For instance, legislators added 14 earmarks costing $671.5 million for the FY 2017 Army Corps of Engineers in the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act. These earmarks correspond to 482 earmarks costing $541.7 million in FY 2010.

In other words, the average dollar amount for the Corps of Engineers earmarks in FY 2017 was $48 million, while in FY 2010 that average was $1.1 million. The “Congressionally Directed Spending” section at the end of the FY 2010 bill contained the names of the members of Congress requesting each project and its location, as required by the transparency rules. In stark contrast, the FY 2017 earmarks, which cost $129.8 million more than the FY 2010 projects, contained no such data and simply created a pool of money to be distributed at a later date without any specific information about the eventual recipients.

Members of Congress will argue that their standards differ from the earmark criteria used in the Pig Book, and that the appropriations bills are earmark-free according to their definition. However, the difference in the definition of earmarks between CAGW and Congress has existed 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 the 2017 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 those in Congress who deny the existence of earmarks in the appropriations bills is: Why were these projects previously considered earmarks, but not in 2017?

Unfortunately, the earmark moratorium has not only failed to eliminate earmarks, but also has rendered the process patently less transparent. There are no names of legislators, no list or chart of earmarks, and limited information on where and how 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 relative to many prior years, transparency and accountability have regressed immeasurably.

One of the most frequently used arguments in favor of earmarks is that they would help pass certain spending bills. In the past, however, members have voted for excessively expensive legislation because they have received a few earmarks, which means the moratorium has helped restrain spending. A return to rampant earmarking would inevitably increase the risk of corruption and the potential for an explosion in expenditures compared to current levels.

There are also concerns regarding which legislators benefit most in a system with openly-incorporated earmarks. As Sen. McCain explained on May 7, 2014, regarding those making the case for a return to earmarks, “The problem with all their arguments is: the more powerful you are, the more likely it is you get the earmark in. Therefore, it is a corrupt system.”

Earmarks create a few winners (appropriators, special interests, and lobbyists) and a great many losers (taxpayers). They contribute to the deficit directly, by tacking on extra funding, and indirectly, by attracting votes to costly legislation that might not otherwise pass. Earmarks corrupt democracy by eclipsing more important matters in the minds of legislators and voters.

The 25th installment of CAGW’s exposé of pork-barrel spending includes $9 million for the aquatic plant control program; $5.9 million for the East-West Center, an earmark championed by Senate Appropriations Committee member Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii); and $5 million for Save America’s Treasures grants, which in the past has supported the restoration and operation of theatres, museums, and opera houses.

The projects in the 2017 Congressional Pig Book Summary symbolize the most blatant examples of pork. As in previous years, all items in the Congressional Pig Book meet at least one of CAGW’s seven criteria, but most satisfy at least two:

  • Requested by only one chamber of Congress;
  • Not specifically authorized;
  • Not competitively awarded;
  • Not requested by the President;
  • Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;
  • Not the subject of congressional hearings; or
  • Serves only a local or special interest.

I. Agriculture

Members of Congress have long used the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act to feed at the trough, and that trend continued this year. The number of earmarks increased by 50 percent, from three in FY 2016 to six in FY 2017, and the cost increased by 47.3 percent, from $23.9 million in FY 2016 to $35.2 million in FY 2017.

$10,000,000 for high energy cost grants within the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). The RUS grew out of the remnants of the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Electrification Administration (REA) of the 1930s. The REA’s mission was to promote electrification to farmers and residents in communities where the cost of providing electricity was considered to be too expensive for local utilities. By 1981, 98.7 percent electrification and 95 percent telephone service coverage was achieved. Rather than declaring victory and shutting down the REA, the agency was transformed into the RUS, and expanded into other areas.

RUS high energy cost grants are intended to assist communities whose energy costs exceed 275 percent of the national average by funding the construction, installation, and repair of energy distribution facilities. This may sound like a bright idea, but the RUS Electric Loan program is intended to achieve the same objective. Former President Obama’s FY 2013 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings proposed the elimination of the high energy cost program, noting that low-interest electric loans are available through the RUS to residents of the areas served by the high energy cost program, which include Alaska, Hawaii, several communities in certain other states, and U.S. territories.

Since FY 2002, members of Congress have added seven earmarks for high energy cost grants totaling $123.5 million.

$6,000,000 for the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), which also received a $9,064,000 earmark in the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, for a combined total of $15,064,000, or $2 million more than in FY 2016. The amount earmarked nearly doubled the DRA’s budget request of $15.9 million for FY 2017.

Established in 2000, the DRA is intended to provide economic development assistance to support the creation of jobs and improve local conditions for the 10 million people who reside in 252 counties and parishes throughout the Mississippi Delta states of Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee.

According to the Republican Study Committee’s FY 2016 budget, funding for the DRA should be terminated because such regional commissions are duplicative of other federal programs and support mostly local projects. Support for cutting DRA funds is bipartisan, as former President Obama’s FY 2017 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings recommended reducing the agency’s budget by $3 million annually. President Trump’s FY 2018 Major Savings and Reforms recommended eliminating the DRA, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Denali Commission, and the Northern Border Regional Commission, saving $156 million.

Since FY 2003, the DRA has received 10 earmarks totaling $45.9 million.


II. Defense

The Department of Defense (DOD) has received the most earmarks at the highest cost to taxpayers in each year since FY 1994, a trend that continued in FY 2017. The number of earmarks in the bill rose by 59.7 percent, from 67 in FY 2016 to 107 in FY 2017. The cost of these earmarks expanded correspondingly, increasing by 57.6 percent, from $3.3 billion in FY 2016 to $5.2 billion in FY 2017. This total constitutes 76.5 percent of the $6.8 billion in earmarks contained in the 12 appropriations bills for FY 2017.

$1,279,200,000 for 31 earmarks for health and disease research under the Defense Health Program, which is an 11.2 percent increase in cost over the 28 earmarks worth $1,150,800,000 in FY 2016. Former Sen. Tom Coburn’s (R-Okla.) November 2012 report, “The Department of Everything,” pointed out that the DOD disease earmarks added by Congress mean that “fewer resources are available for DOD to address those specific health challenges facing members of the armed forces for which no other agencies are focused.” According to the report, in 2010 the Pentagon withheld more than $45 million for overhead related to earmarks, which means those funds were unavailable for national security needs or medical research specifically affecting those serving in the military.

A March 14, 2012, Washington Post article stated that DOD Comptroller Robert Hale proposed decreasing the Pentagon health budget in part by eliminating “one-time congressional adds,” which he said totaled $603.6 million in FY 2012 for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.

Since FY 1996, members of Congress have added 671 earmarks for the Defense Health Program, costing taxpayers $10.5 billion.

$1,020,800,000 for four earmarks funding two planes intended to be replaced by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF): $979 million for 12 additional F/A-18 E/F Hornets for the Navy; $24.8 million for F-16 mission training center simulators; $12 million for a missile warning system for the F-16; and $5 million for anti-jamming GPS for the F-16.

The Air Force declared its variant of the JSF to be combat ready in August 2016, 15 years after Lockheed Martin won the contract. However, a report released in the same month by former DOD Operational Test and Evaluation Director Michael Gilmore found that, “achieving full combat capability with the Joint Strike Fighter is at substantial risk” of not occurring prior to the end of development. The report described the JSF as “… not on a path toward success but instead on a path toward failing to deliver.”

In the interim, those aircraft the JSF is meant to replace are aging rapidly, leaving a readiness gap. During a February 7, 2017 House Armed Services Committee hearing, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral William Moran claimed that the number of grounded F/A-18s is “double where we should be.” As of February 2017, 62 percent of the planes were non-operational, and 53 percent of the Navy's total air fleet is grounded.

Beyond the litany of cost overruns and delays, doubts exist as to whether the JSF will be an improvement. Many members of Congress, including Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who served 26 years in the Air Force and retired as a colonel in 2010, have questioned whether the F-35 will exceed the performance of the (far cheaper) A-10 in close-air support of troops on the ground. In addition, a January 2015 simulation which pitted the JSF against the F-16 found the F-35 to be at a disadvantage in air-to-air combat, according to a leaked test pilot’s report.

$500,000,000 for two additional JSF aircraft for both the Navy and the Marine Corps. The acquisition misadventures of the JSF program have been well-documented. In development for nearly 16 years and six years behind schedule, the program is approximately $170 billion over budget and has encountered an abundance of persistent issues. An April 2015 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report noted that the lifetime operation and maintenance costs of the most expensive weapon system in history will total approximately $1 trillion.

Many of the problems with the F-35 program can be traced back to the decision to operate program development and procurement simultaneously. This meant that whenever problems were identified, contractors needed to go back and make changes to aircraft that were already in production.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum on July 24, 2015, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James stated, “The biggest lesson I have learned from the F-35 is never again should we be flying an aircraft while we’re building it.” And Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Frank Kendall referred to the purchase of the F-35 as “acquisition malpractice” in February 2014.

Remarkably, other DOD brass do not appear overly concerned. On December 19, 2016, Lieutenant General Christopher Bogdan, who heads the F-35 Program Office, claimed “This program is not out of control.” For this stark example of institutional bias, CAGW named Lt. Gen. Bogdan Porker of the Month for January 2017.

Rather than asking pressing questions as to whether the JSF remains worthy of further commitment, members of Congress provided an earmark for four additional aircraft. Since FY 2001, members of Congress have added 13 earmarks for the JSF program, costing $2.4 billion.

$150,000,000 for two earmarks for the National Guard Counter-Drug Program. Formerly earmarked to individual states and congressional districts, the program, which allows for the use of military personnel in domestic drug enforcement operations, is now funded in one bundle as a work-around to the earmark moratorium. The Drug Enforcement Administration, with a budget of $2.1 billion, is already responsible for these activities. Since FY 2001, there have been 68 earmarks costing taxpayers $642.1 million for the National Guard Counter-Drug Program. Members of Congress who have inserted earmarks for this program in the past include longtime pork advocates such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Appropriations Committee member Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and the late Sens. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

$30,000,000 for the Starbase Youth Program, or $5 million more than the amount earmarked in each of the past three years. Starbase teaches science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to at-risk youth in multiple locations at or near military bases around the country. Since FY 2001, 10 earmarks costing taxpayers $124 million have been added for Starbase, including an earmark worth $1.9 million in FY 2010 added by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).

A March 2012 GAO annual report on program duplication, overlap, and fragmentation found that $3 billion was spent in FY 2010 across 13 agencies for 209 STEM programs, 83 percent of which overlapped with at least one other program. Former President Obama proposed the consolidation or elimination of 31 STEM programs in FY 2015, and a further 20 STEM programs in FY 2016.

$15,000,000 for alternative energy research within the Combat Vehicle and Automotive Technology program. Since FY 2004, Congress has used the Defense Appropriations bill as a vehicle to insert 27 earmarks worth $289.9 million for this purpose, despite the fact that the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act supplies billions of dollars for alternative energy research every year.

During a March 13, 2012, Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, then-Ranking Member John McCain (R-Ariz.) asserted that the Navy’s efforts to develop biofuels could turn into another “Solyndra situation,” citing the solar panel manufacturer that received a $535 million loan guarantee through the Department of Energy before filing for bankruptcy in September 2011. According to Sen. McCain, the Navy spent in excess of $400 per gallon for approximately 20,000 gallons of algae-based biofuel.

In a February 2011 hearing, House Armed Services Committee member Randy Forbes (R-Va.) fired a shot across the Navy’s bow, telling Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, “You’re not the secretary of Energy. You’re the secretary of the Navy.”


III. Energy and Water

The Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act is more flooded with pork than it was in FY 2016. The number of earmarks increased by 9.1 percent, from 22 in FY 2016 to 24 in FY 2017, while the cost surged by 40.6 percent, from $704.7 million in FY 2016 to $991 million in FY 2017.

$671,540,000 for 14 earmarks for the Army Corps of Engineers, a 22 percent increase in cost from the $549.6 million in FY 2016. President Trump’s FY 2018 Major Savings and Reforms recommended reducing the Corps of Engineers’ budget by $976 million.

Legislators have long treated the Army Corps of Engineers as a prime repository of pork, and it is among the most heavily earmarked areas of the federal budget. Since FY 1996, members of Congress have added 6,916 earmarks for the Corps, costing taxpayers $12.8 billion.

Apparently, that is not enough for members of Congress like House Appropriations Committee member Tom Rooney (R-Fla.). On May 4, 2017, he introduced H. Res. 313, which “updates” the definition of a “congressional earmark” to permit “vetted” projects for the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. While Rep. Rooney claimed in his May 4 press release that this would be good for the country, his true motivation was to obtain the ability to increase funding for two projects in his congressional district. He stated he did not want a complete repeal of the earmark moratorium, but the pathology of pork is so pervasive that any change in the earmark definition would never be limited to a particular type of spending. For this hypocrisy, CAGW named Rep. Rooney Porker of the Month for May 2017.

$32,000,000 for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), a 37.3 percent decrease from the $51 million in FY 2016. ARC was created by Congress in 1965 to “bring the 13 Appalachian states into the mainstream of the American economy.” The commission represents a partnership of federal, state, and local governments and covers all of West Virginia along with portions of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. ARC provides funding for several hundred highway and development projects throughout the Appalachian region. The commission is duplicative of dozens of other programs that exist at the federal, state, and local levels, and unfairly focuses on a region of the country that is no more deserving than other impoverished areas.

Since FY 1995, the ARC has received nine earmarks totaling $253.5 million for projects in Alabama, Kentucky, and West Virginia.

$9,064,000 for the Delta Regional Authority, which also received an earmark costing $6 million in the Agriculture Appropriations Act, for a combined total of $15,064,000.

$9,000,000 for the aquatic plant control program, an increase of 12.5 percent from the $8 million earmarked in FY 2016. Since 1994, there have been 23 earmarks worth a total of $47.1 million for aquatic plant control projects, including three by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and one each by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).


IV. Financial Services

The FY 2017 version of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act contained two earmarks, double the amount in FY 2016. The cost of these earmarks increased by 3.5 percent, from $56.6 million in FY 2016 to $58.6 million in FY 2017.

$57,590,000 for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program (HIDTA) at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, an increase of 1.8 percent from the $56.6 million earmarked in FY 2016.

Originally intended for Southern border states, members of Congress have used earmarks to expand HIDTA to non-border states. Since FY 1997, 31 earmarks costing taxpayers $327.4 million have been provided for HIDTA programs; 16 of the earmarks were directed to programs in 10 states, only two of which, Arizona and New Mexico, are on the Southern border. The other eight states that received HIDTA earmarks were Alabama, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

Former President Obama’s FY 2017 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings recommended trimming the HIDTA program by $54 million, or 21.6 percent, from the $250 million spent in FY 2016. The earmark canceled out that proposed reduction.


V. Homeland Security

While the number of earmarks in the FY 2017 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Appropriations Act remained steady at seven, the cost of the earmarks decreased by 57 percent, from $329.1 million in FY 2016 to $141.6 million in FY 2017. This sharp reduction can be explained by the absence of earmarks for the Port Security Grant Program, which received $100 million in FY 2016, and the Offshore Patrol Cutter, which received a $70.5 million earmark. Members of Congress should be congratulated for reducing the cost of earmarks in the DHS bill, bucking the wider trend in FY 2017.

$65,000,000 for the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium (NDPC), which strives to increase the preparedness of first responders to the threats of terrorism. The $65 million earmarked in FY 2017 is a 16.1 percent increase over the $56 million in FY 2016. Since FY 2005, the NDPC has received seven earmarks worth $480.6 million, including a $10.1 million earmark in FY 2010 by Senate appropriator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and former Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

$45,515,000 for the National Predisaster Mitigation Fund (NPMF). Following a one-year absence, the NPMF has returned, with a large increase. The $45.5 million earmarked in FY 2017 represents an 82 percent increase over the $25 million in FY 2015.

Former President Obama’s FY 2017 Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings recommended reducing the NPMF by $46 million, nearly matching the amount earmarked by members of Congress. Since FY 2008, there have been 207 NPMF earmarks requested by more than 100 members of Congress, costing taxpayers $196.1 million.


VI. Interior

The number of earmarks in the FY 2017 Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act increased by 166.7 percent, from three in FY 2016 to eight in FY 2017. The cost of the earmarks increased by 33.8 percent, from $29.9 million in FY 2016 to $40 million in FY 2016.

$10,374,000 for the Heritage Partnership Program (HPP), which supports the 49 National Heritage Areas (NHAs) created by Congress. Operated through the National Park Service (NPS), the HPP has received 51 earmarks costing $76.5 million since FY 2001, including funding for projects such as park improvements, sports complexes, health centers, water quality monitoring, bike paths, sustainable agriculture, and agricultural tourism.

Each of former President Obama’s budgets from FYs 2011-2017 slashed funding for NHAs, including the FY 2017 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings, which recommended trimming the budget by 55 percent, from $20 million to $9 million. President Trump’s FY 2018 Major Savings and Reforms proposed an even bigger cut to $1 million, noting that there is no “systematic process for designating Heritage Partnership Areas or determining their effectiveness,” and that funding for the HPP diverted resources from core NPS responsibilities.

Unfortunately, members of Congress have continuously ignored these proposed budget reductions, earmarking funding for the HPP in every year since FY 2011.

$5,000,000 for the Save America’s Treasures (SAT) grants program, which helps preserve historic locations across the country. The earmark is the first for the program since FY 2010. Since FY 2006, there have been 265 SAT earmarks costing taxpayers $55.5 million.

The SAT program exemplifies how any “exceptions” to the earmark moratorium, such as those proposed by Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) for the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation, will never be limited.

Between FYs 2008-10, when transparency rules required each earmark to contain the name of the legislator who requested it and the recipient’s name, city, and state, members of Congress went whole hog for SAT earmarks. In FY 2008, 78 members of Congress added 70 earmarks costing $13.6 million. In FY 2009, 58 members of Congress added 55 earmarks costing $10 million. And in FY 2010, 72 members of Congress added 52 earmarks costing $10.2 million.

During those three years, there were 21 earmarks for theaters costing $4.5 million; 10 earmarks for museums costing $2.4 million; and seven earmarks for opera houses costing $1.5 million. One of those earmarks, worth $150,000, was obtained by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) in FY 2010 for the Sterling Opera House in Derby, Connecticut; $110,000 of that amount had to be returned to the federal government after it was improperly used by the city.

SAT earmarks contributed to the downfall of former House Appropriations Committee member Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.). In FY 2010, he added $150,000 for restoration of the Cottrill Opera House through the Vandalia Heritage Foundation, which was operated by a former aide, Laura Kurtz Kuhn. This was one of several earmarks that led to Rep. Mollohan being accused of potential ethics violations, a key issue in his primary election loss in May 2010.

While the earmarks in FYs 2008-2010 were transparent, there is no indication where the FY 2017 earmark is going. As a result, taxpayers will be unaware should a member of Congress direct the SAT money in FY 2017 to a friend, or anyone else.

Former President Obama called for the elimination of the SAT program in the FY 2011 version of Cuts, Consolidations, and Savings, to allow the NPS to “… focus resources on managing national parks and other activities that most closely align with its core mission,” since the grants have “not demonstrated how they contribute to nationwide historic preservation goals.”

On top of these problems with the SAT program, many facilities could have simply charged more money or found other ways to match the amount of the earmarks.

A prime example is the $147,660 earmarked by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) in FY 2008 for the plush de Seversky Center Mansion in Old Westbury, New York, which “brings together Gatsby-era opulence, modern convenience, and highly personalized service” for corporate events and weddings. Wedding-spot.com calls the facility “one of the premier event and wedding venues in the New York area” and cites the average wedding cost “at between $73,015 and $86,737 for a ceremony & reception for 150 guests.” In other words, two weddings could have replaced the earmark.

Another such facility is the Roberson Center in Binghamton, N.Y., located in the district of former House appropriator Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.), which received a $100,000 earmark in FY 2006. The center raised $50,000 for its 12th annual Wine and Food Fest in 2017, and charges $215 per week for summer camp, which means just 23 more attendees per week for the 10 weeks of camp would equal the remaining $50,000 of the earmark.

Members of Congress should Save America’s Taxpayers by eliminating this earmark.


VII. Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor/HHS)

For the second consecutive year, the FY 2017 Labor/HHS Appropriations Act experienced a significant drop in earmarks. The number of projects in the bill decreased by 55.6 percent, from nine in FY 2016 to four in FY 2017, while the cost was reduced by 77.8 percent, from $252.6 million in FY 2016 to $56.2 million in FY 2017. This total represents a 90 percent decline in cost from the $562.5 million earmarked in FY 2015.

$17,409,000 for Rural Hospital Flexibility Grants (Flex) through the Department of Health and Human Services, a 13 percent increase from the $15.4 million earmarked in FY 2016. Flex grants were created to “improve access to hospitals and other health services for families that live in rural communities.” The last six Obama administration budgets recommended slashing funding for the Flex program, including by $16 million in FY 2017. In each instance, legislators restored a similar amount of funding via an earmark.

Since FY 2006, Flex grants have received six earmarks totaling $141.7 million.


VIII. State and Foreign Operations

The number of earmarks in the FY 2017 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act dropped by 20 percent, from five in FY 2016 to four in FY 2017. The cost of the earmarks decreased by 4.1 percent, from $232.4 million in FY 2016 to $222.8 million in FY 2017.

$66,500,000 for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a private, nonprofit foundation that aims to help grow and strengthen democratic institutions around the world. Since FY 1997, NED has received seven earmarks worth a total of $279.2 million.

$5,900,000 for the East-West Center in Hawaii. Intended to promote better relations with Pacific and Asian nations, the center was established by Congress in 1960 with no congressional hearings and over the State Department’s opposition. For years, the State Department tried to eliminate the center by not requesting funding in the department’s annual budget requests.

After Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) passed away in 2013, Senate Appropriations Committee member Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) took over as the center’s champion. In a May 1, 2017, press release, Sen. Schatz claimed credit for securing funding at a level $5.9 million above the administration’s request.

The East-West Center is similar to the North-South Center, which stopped receiving federal funding in 2001. An April 3, 2009, Congressional Research Service report stated, “Congress has not funded the North-South Center since FY 2001, noting that it should be funded by the private sector.” Following that logic, the East-West Center should be funded by the private sector as well. It probably would be, except the center is located in the state of a Senate appropriator. Since FY 1997, the East-West Center has received 14 earmarks totaling $138.2 million.

$5,000,000 for the Asia Foundation, which is “committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia.” Since FY 1997, members of Congress have directed 11 earmarks totaling $64.6 million to the Asia Foundation.

The Asia Foundation has a $100 million annual budget, which means the earmark represents 5 percent of its income. The organization had 500 donors between October 1, 2015, and September 30, 2016, composed of 80 corporations and organizations, 37 government agencies, and 383 individuals. Clearly, it is capable of raising another $5 million to replace the earmark. Just like the North-South Center did in 2001 and the East-West Center should do now, the Asia Foundation should rely solely on private sources of funding and the earmarks should come to an end.


IX. Transportation Housing and Urban Development (THUD)

The number of earmarks in the FY 2017 THUD and Related Agencies Appropriations Act decreased by 50 percent, from two in FY 2016 to one in FY 2017. The cost dropped by 72.7 percent, from $8.8 million in FY 2016 to $2.4 million in FY 2017.

$2,387,000 for advanced materials and structural safety within the Airport and Airways Trust Fund (AATF), through which the Federal Aviation Administration finances infrastructure improvements for airports.

According to a November 21, 2016 Cato Institute report, the AATF has the indirect effect of preventing competition among airlines at airports. Because the AATF allows for only limited funding for maintenance and improvements, airports are limited in the number of gates they can build. As a result, airport managers ration gate access through long-term contracts with established companies, creating a barrier to entry for potential competitors.

In contrast, according to a 2016 Airport Council International report, market-based reforms in European airports have led to “significant volumes of investment in necessary infrastructure, higher service quality levels, and a commercial acumen which allows airport operators to diversify revenue streams and minimize the costs that users have to pay.” Because privatized European airports are not forced to compete with inefficient government-subsidized airport ownership, healthy competition thrives and consumers pay lower prices.

This report was written by Sean Kennedy, Director of Research, and Curtis Kalin, Director of Communications. It was edited by Thomas A. Schatz, President.


Historical Trends

Spending

Sign Up for Email Updates!Click Here!

Pig Book Archives

Choose Year:

CAGW Names Sen. Ron Wyden October 2017 Porker of the Month

Sen. Wyden is CAGW's October Porker of the Month for spreading falsehoods about common sense tax reform.