The Pig Book is Dead, Long Live the Pig Book | Citizens Against Government Waste

The Pig Book is Dead, Long Live the Pig Book

The WasteWatcher

Every year around tax day, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) holds its infamous press conference to release the annual Congressional Pig Book, which highlights the most egregious earmarks stuffed by members of Congress into the 12 appropriations bills.

The release marks the end of several months of diligent work by CAGW staff, including combing through thousands of pages of line items to pull out the thousands of earmarks added to the bills. The press conference has attracted many attendees; Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) have been at nearly all of the events. But the real draws were Winnie and Dudley, two pot-bellied pigs who traveled from rural Maryland with their owner to take part in the event. Unfortunately, both passed away last year; ironically, the Congressional Pig Book was canceled this year thanks to the earmark moratorium passed in Congress.

Fortunately, CAGW’s research team is still on full alert, as there has been pushback on the moratorium in both the House and the Senate. As described in the March WasteWatcher, several senators have taken initial steps to circumvent the moratorium. The same has occurred in the House, where Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) claimed that the notorious Joint Strike Fighter alternate engine, which received $1.2 billion in earmarks from fiscal year (FY) 2004 through FY 2010 and whose contract was recently terminated by the Department of Defense, “still has substantial support.” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.) has made it clear he will attempt to add money for the engine in the FY 2012 defense spending bill.

In addition, there are differences between what members of Congress consider an earmark and the criteria used by CAGW. While House Appropriations subcommittee chairs have stated they will not accept requests for earmarks, CAGW’s criteria may still turn up such projects in the appropriations bills. In addition, legislators will work hard to find new loopholes.  For instance, “letter-marking” and “phone-marking,” where elected officials contact agency employees to request funding for certain projects, might increase in frequency. Currently, those contacts are not made public; in order to truly adhere to an earmark moratorium they should be transparent. While earmarks are officially suspended for now, the issue is far from settled.

Of course, waste still exists in other areas of the budget. Instead of working on the Pig Book, CAGW staff has been hard at work for months on the annual Prime Cuts, which contains recommendations for programmatic reductions and eliminations. This year there will be a Prime Cuts summary, similar to the Pig Book. The entire database will include more than 700 recommendations that would save taxpayers $352.6 billion in one year, and $1.8 trillion over five years. Fans of the Pig Book can read all about Prime Cuts in May 2011.

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