Swimming in Pork | Citizens Against Government Waste

Swimming in Pork

The WasteWatcher

House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) went off the deep end recently when he earmarked a whopping $1 million for a swimming pool in his district.  Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate act as the gatekeepers to the lucrative business of earmarks and, as chairman, Rep. Lewis holds noteworthy influence to tack on pet projects to bills in a way that is not subject to debate or oversight. 

Since 2001, Rep. Lewis’ home state has been appropriated $7,948,000 in federal taxpayer money for pools, with the city of Salinas alone receiving $1,025,000 for their city pool between 2001 and 2004.  Despite his promise to reduce frivolous earmarks like these upon his confirmation as Chairman in January of 2005, Rep. Lewis has proven he is not above the temptations of office.  Making sure not to discriminate against constituents who might be freshwater swimmers, Rep. Lewis has even used funds from the Environmental Protection Agency for the creation of a $1 million man-made lake in San Bernardino City, which is in his district. 

Rep. Lewis has also abused his post on the Appropriations Committee since 1980 to grant hundreds of millions of dollars worth of appropriations to his close friend, former Congressman and current lobbyist, Bill Lowery.  Lowery, in turn, held fundraisers for Rep. Lewis in which Lowery and his clients donated the maximum allowed by law to Rep. Lewis’s campaign, including almost $500,000 to Rep. Lewis’s Political Action Committee since 2000.  Rep. Lewis then gave $650,000 to the Republican Party to help them maintain a majority, which may have influenced House leadership to appoint him as Appropriations Committee Chairman.  Among Lowery’s many clients is a defense contractor linked to the bribery scandal of former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham.  The intimate relationship between Lowery and Rep. Lewis has aroused suspicion amid recent bribery scandals and is currently under investigation by the Justice Department.

Pork projects like these have become the equivalent of re-election billboards to gain voters and contributors.  Congress spent a record $29 billion on 9,963 pork projects in fiscal 2006.  Many of these projects, such as swimming pools, are properly the responsibility local government.  While Rep. Lewis’s constituents get a free swim, federal taxpayers are drowning in an $8.4 trillion national debt.

Douglas Rogers

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