The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

The WasteWatcher

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact

Big Time ARM Wrestling

The country continues to experience uncertainty and volatility in the financial markets as a result of the crisis in the mortgage industry.  Financial services companies have been hit hard.  For example, Merrill Lynch announced an $8.4 billion writedown in October, and Citigroup received a $7.5 billion infusion of cash from investors in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

For its part, Congress has been trying to help homeowners who face foreclosure or need help refinancing homes they can no longer afford.  Developments in the mortgage market are fluid and the industry began taking corrective action to mitigate problems for some subprime borrowers.  One housing advocate told The Wall Street Journal that some loan-service providers are “already freezing rates for five to seven years.” 

Embattled Doan Cuts Waste

The General Services Administration (GSA) is often called “the government’s landlord.”  It is responsible for the upkeep of the government’s 8,600 buildings.  The agency has a $66 billion budget and 12,000 employees, and its current administrator is Lurita Doan. 

While she has been making progress in reducing wasteful spending at GSA, Doan has dealt with several scandals.  Soon after taking over GSA in May, 2006, she gave a no-bid contract to a company owned by a longtime friend.  According to a January 19, 2007 article in The Washington Post, the $20,000 contract signed by Doan was cancelled in the summer of 2006, after senior GSA officials determined that it violated procurement rules.

FCC Trying to Take Over Your TV

WHEEL OF FORTUNE! <click> It slices, it dices- <click>Tony Romo, back to pass <click>.  These are the sounds of America’s quintessential channel surfers, as they look for that perfect show to watch.  But if Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin has his way, this activity would be under stricter government control and ultimately more expensive to consumers.

No Congressional Pay Raise

One of the few remaining issues that enjoyed bipartisan support was finally broken up when Democrats used the annual “cost of living allowance” (COLA) increase to attack Republicans during the 2006 campaign.  Democrats also pledged not to pass a COLA until a new minimum wage bill was passed.

With the minimum wage bill being held up in the Senate and the February 15 COLA vote fast approaching, Democrats tried to reach an agreement to push back the COLA vote so they could still get the pay raise without breaking their campaign promise.  Republicans, miffed at the use of COLA during their losing campaign, blocked the congressional pay raise for the first time in almost a decade. 

California Piglet

The 2007 California Piglet Book marks the fifth consecutive year of publication for the joint exposé of the waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement by California government officials by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Foundation (HJTF) and Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).

Three-day Workweek

After much fanfare surrounding its introduction in January, the Congressional five-day workweek has been quietly retired for the rest of the legislative year.  The House will have Fridays off in October so representatives can spend more time in their districts – the week already begins late Monday afternoons – yet while the year is winding down, the workload is gearing up.  None of the 12 appropriations bills, which were due before the start of the fiscal year on October 1, have been completed as of publication.  The President has vowed to veto most of them for going over budget; so far the bills exceed the President’s request by $22 billion.

Pelosi AIDS San Francisco

A battle has been brewing over funding in the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act (CARE) section of the fiscal 2008 Labor-HHS-Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.  In 2006, CARE was renewed with a revised funding formula to improve the distribution of grants so that they are allotted more equitably to AIDS cases across the country.  This year in the House, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) inserted a provision, called a “hold-harmless,” which would take $9.3 million out of the CARES 2008 budget for urban area grants and redirect the money to give extra money to a few cities in 2007, including $6.2 million for San Francisco, which is in her congressional district.   Her explanation was that San Francisco otherwise stands to lose almost a third of its financial support under the new formula.

Waste on a Plane

According to a September 28, 2007 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, federal employees have been flying first and business classes more than they should.  The GAO reviewed credit card records for air travel purchases of federal employees between 2005 and 2006 and discovered that agencies spent $230 million on 53,000 premium-class tickets.  In more than two-thirds of the cases, the high-cost airfare was not sanctioned or justifiable, costing taxpayers $146 million annually.

Pork is Alive and Well

The new fiscal year dawned on October 1 without a federal budget and the Congress graciously granted itself another six weeks to complete its constitutional mandate to pass all 12 appropriations bills.  If it feels like déjà vu, that’s because it is.

Lawmakers Choose Pork Over Bridge Safety

The I-35 Bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which resulted in the deaths of 13 people, dominated several news cycles and gave politicians the kind of somber photo ops they can rarely resist.  Some, including House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), called for an increase in the federal gas tax to pay for the long-standing unmet need for bridge repair.  Congress went back to business as usual, earmarking billions of tax dollars for frivolous projects in the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill.


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