CAGW Statement on Coburn Retirement Announcement | Citizens Against Government Waste

CAGW Statement on Coburn Retirement Announcement

Press Release

For Immediate ReleaseContact: Alexandra Booze 202-467-5318
January 17, 2014Leslie K. Paige 202-467-5300


(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) President Tom Schatz praised the tireless work of taxpayer watchdog Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who announced on January 16 that he would retire from public office at the end of 2014. Sen. Coburn was first elected to the House in 1994, upheld his campaign pledge to serve no more than three consecutive terms, then ran for and won a U.S. Senate seat in 2004.

“At the end of this year, taxpayers will be losing one of their best friends in Washington,” said CAGW President Tom Schatz. “There are few members of Congress who have been more candid, articulate and successful in the fight against wasteful spending than Dr. Tom Coburn. We were proud to give Dr. Coburn the J. Peter Grace Award in 2007 in recognition of his leadership in the effort to eliminate government waste and for exemplifying Peter’s hard-charging, indomitable spirit. On behalf of the 1.3 million members and supporters of CAGW, our board of directors and staff, we sincerely thank Dr. Coburn for his service to his state and the nation and look forward to working with him both throughout the rest of 2014 and thereafter.”

Among Dr. Coburn’s many notable achievements, he led the effort to adopt the congressional earmark moratorium following his long crusade to eliminate earmarks, which included spending countless hours on the floor of the House and Senate offering amendments to eliminate pork-barrel projects and appearing regularly at CAGW’s Congressional Pig Book press conferences. He led the movement toward greater transparency and accountability in government by co-sponsoring the The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) of 2006, which he co-sponsored with then-Sen. Barack Obama. He also joined CAGW to release the 2005 Oklahoma Piglet Book, which included a recommendation that the state adopt its own version of FATA. Subsequently, dozens of other states have approved transparency and accountability measures.

Among the many hearings during which Tom Schatz either testified before Dr. Coburn’s committees or subcommittees as a witness or at which he appeared with Dr. Coburn as a witness, the most recent took place on January 9, 2014, before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Dr. Coburn told the committee, “The problem isn’t that we don’t know what the problem is. The problem is that we don’t act. … Sequestration didn’t even force Congress to cut, eliminate, or consolidate any of the hundreds of duplicated, outdated, or ineffective government programs. If you can’t find waste in any part of the federal budget there is only one reason: you just haven’t looked.”

Another notable achievement was Dr. Coburn’s legislation that required the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to analyze duplicative and overlapping programs. GAO issued three such reports in 2011, 2012, and 2013, and will issue its fourth in 2014. Sen. Coburn has estimated that the annual cost of the programs cited in the first three reports is $295 billion.

Sen. Coburn has also has issued the “Wastebook” since 2009, which has highlighted hundreds of egregious examples of wasteful spending costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars, such as $321 million wasted on duplicative information technology projects, $171 million in losses on loans to sugar producers who could not pay back borrowed money, $10.7 million for the Denali Commission even after the Department of the Interior inspector general determined that it should be shut down, and $3 million for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to study how Congress works.

Finally, no tribute to Dr. Coburn’s accomplishments would be complete without acknowledging the superb work of his personal and committee staff. They have all been reliable and trusted partners with CAGW in our mutual efforts to eliminate government waste.

During his six years in the Senate, Dr. Coburn consistently achieved “Taxpayer Hero” status in the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste’s (CCAGW) Congressional Ratings, including a perfect score of 100 percent in 2010. His lifetime rating of 95 percent as of the end of 2012 is the third highest in the Senate.

“Oklahomans will be well-served if Dr. Coburn’s successor carries on his strong advocacy on their behalf to make the government more efficient and effective. While he expressed in his remarks announcing his retirement that he regretted not stopping more bad laws during his tenure in Congress, he should not feel any remorse about how hard he tried and feel very proud of the victories that he achieved. I will miss him personally and professionally, and as long as I am president of Citizens Against Government Waste I will keep working to finish what he started.”

CAGW is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government.