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February 24th, 2009
02:40 PM ET

Same ol' pork barrel Congress

Drew Griffin
CNN Special Investigations Unit

On the same day the President called on the government to undergo fiscal restraint, Congress unveiled a bill revealing where all those earmarks have been hiding.

The pork-laden omnibus catch-all, held over from last year, contains no less than 8,570 earmarks. The pork projects are still being deciphered by various watchdog groups, and republicans are railing at the fact that the congressional leadership seems to have violated its transparency rules by jamming these all in a last minute bill, but a quick view has me scratching my head in disbelief at both parties.

After two years of criticism aimed at pork barrel spending, the defiant members of Congress are unabashedly asking for more. Republicans and democrats alike are looking for taxpayer dollars for projects no one could call necessary.

Like what?

David Obey, the house appropriations chair, wants to rebuild a Carnegie library building in Medford, Wisconsin, and he wants to reconstruct "Historic Lighthouses" in the Apostle Island National Lakeshore. (Historic lighthouse means no one uses them anymore, they are simply nice looking relics)

Nancy Pelosi wants money for Angels Island State Park for a center to research genealogy.

A Republican, Robert Aderholt of Alabama, wants $47,500 federal taxpayer dollars to build a perimeter fence around the Rountree Airport to keep the animals away. Rountree airport listed a whopping 14 aircraft based there in 2008. There is not a single air taxi or air carrier that uses this dinky little one runway airstrip.

But the request pales in comparison with an old favorite up in Alaska that simply won't go away. Akutan is a tiny island off Alaska that has a seasonal fish processing factory. The owners of the factory gave money to now disgraced and ousted Senator Ted Stevens. We reported on Stevens' earmark request last year. This year, Stevens is gone but Akutan airport is back. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski wants you and I to spend $1-point-2 million dollars on the Akutan airport.

Airports are a favorite of money. Another favorite of mine is Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, a true pro at earmarking bills. If Senator Byrd wants money for airports in West Virginia, he doesn't waste time explaining why. His earmark request in the transportation portion of the bill: $4,275,000 dollars. The explainer: "Airport improvement statewide." Effectively, just give me the money and West Virginia will determine where to spend it.

Last year I interviewed a somber, somewhat dejected republican senate veteran Orrin Hatch. When I asked him about earmarks and federal spending, he simply shook his head saying the arrogance of both sides of the aisle is quite frankly outrageous and depressing. I'd like to know if somewhere in the White House our new President who promised change and hope, isn't shaking his head too.

So how can you do your own investigative reporting to find your own Senate or Congressional pork? First, open up this House Appropriations committee link.

This site will display the Omnibus bill. Each individual portion of the bill contains a segment labeled "statement". This is the center of all pork. Scroll down to read them all. Or, if you would like to search for a specific Representative or Senate request, hit control-f, then type in the name of the Senator or Member of Congress you are looking for.

If you opened the "statement" for the "transportation" section of the bill and searched "Murkowski", you would find the money being requested for Akutan airport by Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

I know...it is not easy...but remember, just a few years ago all we got was a big stack of papers with no names attached. Happy hunting!

soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. Matt

    Aderholt want's tax payer money to build a fence around a small landing strip maybe 45 minutes away from Huntsville Int'l just another example of pointless spending and a representative be elected to one too many terms in the house

    February 24, 2009 at 10:08 pm |
  2. Lance

    Why should we wait for the next election?
    Let's revolt by having a recall on all of those politicians that are wasting our money. If y'all wait, they will just have more time to waste and pocket our money. Do something now! Tomorrow may be too late.
    A bloodless revolution is the best way to get their attention. It is time for us to stop bending over to pick up the soap. Start a grassroots, "Kick out the greedy, now!" campaign. I am sure there are enough smart people out there that can start this.
    To only complain and do nothing is worse than what these people are doing to us. We elected them to do our bidding. If they only think of themselves, then we can unelect them.
    Also "Detroit_fed" made a good comment. Read it!
    PS: Have a nice day!!

    February 24, 2009 at 10:07 pm |
  3. Patrick

    You Americans have freedom of speech so you all speak before you think.

    Every pork does create jobs for someone who carry out the contract. Not because you are not the one who is doing the job the ear mark was created means that someone else is not doing it. People need jobs even if the job is for two, six or 12 months.

    Some people have been out of jobs for so long so any contract will do until the next one comes around. Every ear mark is not a waste; yes a few may be wasteful but most are short term contracts that will help a family pay some mortgages, health bills and student loans. Even the the earmark was for a baseball field, someone has to build it.

    February 24, 2009 at 10:06 pm |
  4. BOB WETMORE

    I think I understand why all this pork is added to a bill. People like Nacy Pelosi one of the most incompentent of this congress needs to get re-elected and in order to do that she takes my money and gives it to her constintuents under the guise of stimulus. How else will this arrogant piece of work get re-elected, certainly not by her merits. These supporters of pork should actually be arrested and charged with larceny. How is this even legal?

    February 24, 2009 at 9:55 pm |
  5. Medhanie Petros

    We are moving out from old way, system of living, to the new generation, Digital world living.... it will pritty much hard for the next couple years untill we able get to use to it.

    February 24, 2009 at 9:49 pm |
  6. sh

    Vote Libertarian and solve the whole problem!

    February 24, 2009 at 9:45 pm |
  7. David Douglas

    How can anyone expect change, when the very people who were on "watch" allow these inappropriate expenditures to take place. Obama is just one man, it's the Congress and the Senate that should be brought to task. Our government was never supposed to run by committee, the heads of these committee's are too powerful and table good ideas that go against their personal likes. We need to vote them out. Giving the same people tax money when they're part of the problem is insane, because they won't change unless personally held accountable. I haven't read that in any of the material out there! With computers, we should be more than able to trace where "our" money goes and who profits from abusing our trust.

    February 24, 2009 at 9:44 pm |
  8. Ed

    Same old crap, different shiny, new label....depressing but true. I serious doubt any real change is coming. Oh and by the way......
    SHAMAN....it is 2009, Obama was elected president! Are you seriously that lame or do you cut and paste your posts from ones you feel you did good on?

    February 24, 2009 at 9:43 pm |
  9. Jason

    Earmarks!!!!
    And you wanted change!!! GOOD LUCK!

    February 24, 2009 at 9:41 pm |
  10. Arachnae

    I don’t recall “pork” ever creating jobs unless you are a pig farmer or a slaughterhouse worker.

    See, now this is just ignorant. Oh, I know you're trying to be funny, but how does pork NOT create jobs? Are you going to restore wetlands by just flinging the money on the ground? Build airports by rolling in wheelbarrows full of money? SOMEONE's going to get the job of doing the work.

    Drew's beef is that Congressmen get to decide where some tiny fraction of the money goes. Apparently it's better left to faceless bureaucrats in DC.

    February 24, 2009 at 9:40 pm |
  11. sharon

    I agree on term limits, but let's go one better. Limit all members to 10 years, one term only. Then the politicizing that is done trying to get re-elected will be done away with. Maybe then they will do the right thing while in Washington, not just what will get them money to be re-elected!

    February 24, 2009 at 9:40 pm |
  12. Tom

    Dear readers. Stop complaining,and start writing to your congressman and senator. Let them know your vote, and everyone that will listen to you, will vote for the other side unless they prove they are working to cut this crap out!

    February 24, 2009 at 9:38 pm |
  13. Jeff

    This should not come as a surprise to anyone who pays even the slightest amount of attention to what goes on in Washington D.C. Next election, maybe the "mainstream media" will help outline these issues for the mostly ignorant electorate. That would be "serving the public interest."

    February 24, 2009 at 9:29 pm |
  14. Ret

    There is only ONE way. To make these evil lying jerks go through the same hell we live everyday. That is the only way they will change and take action- if it effects them directly. Take away their healthcare – all of it.!
    Have them make 25K a year with no raise, no paid vacations, no dental and no bonuses. Take away their fancy cars and their vacations.
    Make them suffer like we do.

    February 24, 2009 at 9:26 pm |
  15. Bill Carson

    Obama lied about vetoing "earmarks." Indeed, almost every word out of his mouth is a careful lie. When he was running, he was against earmarks. Now that he has power and wants to make liberals happy, he is still for earmarks but has simply renamed them or said that the 97,456 earmarks really aren't "earmarks" at all. What a liar!!!!!!!

    February 24, 2009 at 9:22 pm |
  16. felicity

    I think the US citizens should be more vocal. Our blood pressures skyrocket everytime we read all this wasteful spending of our tax dollars. Can't we march on Washington and let them know how we feel. Our taxpayer dollars are being squandered on a daily basis and we sit on these chat groups and can't do anything but complain. Surely we can think of a more productive way to let these crooks know what we think. Would signing petitions and delivering it to the rogue senators help any???? Please let's do something that will get the right peoples attention and shame those stealing from us. Signing petitions, emailing these senators directly, soliciting the media's help, marching on Washington..... what can we do????

    February 24, 2009 at 9:14 pm |
  17. Sharon

    How in the heck does this keep happening over and over to us the taxpayers? I don't recall "pork" ever creating jobs unless you are a pig farmer or a slaughterhouse worker. Hopefully something will come out of this mess called the stimulus bill. When Congress adds all this extra bacon into a bill it feels like we are all being taken for a ride in a pork – sorry... pink – cadillac!

    February 24, 2009 at 9:04 pm |
  18. sam

    We have never been in these economic crises before. So GOP’s should shut the hell up or put up, because you have not said or done anything that will help the American people. Government has never been involved in this type of economic disaster that your organization has caused.
    At this point surveys taken have shown that government is the only entity left that can get us out of this mess and Obama is working on the solution. Republicans have offered only divisiveness. Like it or not Obama will succeed.

    February 24, 2009 at 8:53 pm |
  19. sam

    President Obama has done more in a month than any president especially Bush’s. Being pig headed and bouncing your heads against the wall is not going to make changes in the bill or help anyone. IT IS JUST NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. This time you’ve got a smart, educated president. The last fool is out. This president cannot be pushed around by whites or blacks. He is studied in his thoughts, dealings and vision.
    So GOP’s/Republicans get with it or shut up, because you are no help to the citizens of these United States. Steele is a dumb token and a useful republican pawn. JINDAL cares none for the pain he will cause his people, his eyes are on the presidency and he will never become President of these United States “That’s Guaranteed”. Remember this JINDAL your on that bridge with Palin

    February 24, 2009 at 8:52 pm |
  20. Ann

    Living in the SF Bay Area I am unfortunately used to these greedy lying political PIGS. Throw them out!

    February 24, 2009 at 8:50 pm |
  21. Michael, SoCal

    Look folks, the average American just doesnt care. A little over 50% of the eligible voters went to the polls last November. So much for the greatest democracy in the world. And why dont we care? Because we have been told for decades that its all a waste of time to vote and that politics is bad bad bad (note the above comments!). With that type of spin, far fewer people will care about what happens. To effect Change, we Americans must stand up, be counted, react to political news stories, write our representatives, go to our local city public meetings every now and then. If we get involved, we can change things for the better. If we dont, wealthy politicians will do it for us.

    February 24, 2009 at 8:49 pm |
  22. jake from nc

    really, these days, whats another tril?

    February 24, 2009 at 8:44 pm |
  23. Salas

    Its amazing politicians in the US also exhibit such sleaze many associate with people of developing countries of africa and the rest.It shows they are all the same,americans should be asking questions,call them to town hall meetings to clarify why they had to vote money for airport with a whooping 14planes when an average family is facing foreclosures.I think there should be term limits for this guys,i read the other day a guy has spent 50years+ in the congress,simple law of nature even attest to the principle of diminshing returns.Obsolete ideas in a digital age isnt doing any better.Every pork item in the stimulus&budget should be removed.Enough of this cowboy politics,thousands of people are unemployed,how about going to the congress,,,, .

    February 24, 2009 at 8:31 pm |
  24. Renee, NC

    Horrified of how corrupt the govenment really is, they keep coming out of the woodworks. I am for cleaning the house. Elect outside the Washington bunch of crooks we now have. Bush didn't do all this by his self, its decades of crooks that we elect contributing to the current situation. Why do we keep electing these same people to get us out? We pay the price while they play the political game. Hard working, law abiding, tax paying people should not have to support lazy, whinning, looking for handouts people. God Bless America

    February 24, 2009 at 8:13 pm |
  25. JAN

    GOP's/republicans offer no solutions to the economic mess.
    They just need to stay quite and deal with Obama's bill.

    February 24, 2009 at 7:59 pm |
  26. Alex

    It is this very issue – earmarks and wasteful spending – that leaves questions as to the credibility of any fiscal proposals coming from President Obama and this Congress. If this is "change you can believe it," then that slogan is a myth and nothing more. Sure we all want to see Obama succeed for the good of our nation. But in reality they say one thing and then do business as usual when they think they can get away with it. Waste is waste and spending away our children's and grandchildren's future is plainly wrong no matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican.

    February 24, 2009 at 7:40 pm |
  27. Ellepatricia

    Is you add up the cost of these 8570+ earmarks, what is it? how close to the bailout #s or the [yikes!] stimulus package? just curious...

    February 24, 2009 at 7:17 pm |
  28. ray

    One more reason we are loosing the war – not Iraq or Afghanistan, the one for sane and honest government and one to remove the evils of the past administration. This is just more business as usual. Those incompetent and dishonest so-called congressmen/women should be thrown out. Let them try earning a living like the rest of us and stop them feeding from the public troth. And, if Obama, signs the bill, he should join them. It's about time we started taking offense and punishing those who cause the problems like Bush and his cronies, CEOs and incompetent congressmen/woman. We need to make some examples for the rest.

    February 24, 2009 at 6:51 pm |
  29. Mike, Syracuse NY

    the problem with Obama's 'change' is that even if he's serious there are 535 members of Congress who are saying 'not so fast bro'.

    February 24, 2009 at 6:49 pm |
  30. detroit _fed

    Are we discussing the pork in the budget?.... or something else.... that bridge to nowhere is considered infarstructure.... but how would that benifit the country as a whole... now on the other hand the us interstate system acheives that objective.... so to your response No it would not preclude spending on infrastructure therefore it would not defeat the purpose

    February 24, 2009 at 6:06 pm |
  31. Annie Kate

    Drew,

    Stay after them. This is outrageous especially given the current economy. West Virginia's senator shouldn't be asking for money for airports while he lets the big coal companies blow the appalachian mountain tops off and destroy some of the oldest mountains in the country – he should be asking for money to enable a force to go in and force the coal companies to reclaim what they have destroyed. Or even better he could ask for money to help the poor families that below poverty in West Virginia.

    As for Alabama – I live in Alabama and I have never heard of that rinky dink airport and there is no need for it – good grief Birmingham has an international airport and Montgomery has an airport. Good grief!!

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    February 24, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
  32. Arachnae

    One way to get the pork off the hill is to reject any bill the doesn’t serve the interests of the country as a whole.

    That would entirely preclude any infrastructure spending, some of the most economically stimulating spending in the whole thing. Kind of defeats the purpose, don't you think?

    February 24, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  33. John W. Falardeau

    All the goverment spending does not surprize me at all, it is just goverment as usual.
    Here is one I not sure of, wasn't with the 1st Bush we had all the S&L problems and now with the 2nd Bush it is the banks. Humm, I wonder how much money they made on both of these?
    It's nice that they are going to help the people with forclosures keep thier homes, but I went and ask the back about getting a new morgage with a lower interest rate and was told that I had to owe less than 75% of the value of my home to get one. Now I have never made a late payment in 30 years, I have credit rating of 805 (as of last year), even have a Citi Bank credit card that I have not had a late payment on and I got it in 83. They tell me I am a valued costumer, but every month or so I have to call them to lower my rate. If I just ignored it, I would be paying over 12.5% on it.
    I guess if all you do is pay your bills, you can't ask for much.

    February 24, 2009 at 5:01 pm |
  34. john d

    ....If our law makers dont what to see our president make head way then i agree with jennifer time for real change give us the name i dont care what party ,,im looking to make and better nation ,our collage students put a good man in office and and i think if we start now giving names we can get ride the bad apples.

    February 24, 2009 at 4:22 pm |
  35. Dee, New York

    I think that we should vote out all of the greedy career politicians in their next election. All they do is curry favor in order to get themselves elected again... and again....... They are supposedly public servants, but they only serve themselves.

    February 24, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  36. detroit _fed

    One way to get the pork off the hill is to reject any bill the doesn't serve the interests of the country as a whole. Eventhough they (Congressmen) are elected by their states , it was only to ensure the state has a voice in what is done for the whole.... if you have issues or worthy projects in your city or state take them up at city and state level. let the federal government deal with with federal issues.

    February 24, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  37. JIM FALLBROOK CA

    I agree with Drew. Business as usual in Washington. If I remember correctly our socialist president Barack Hussein Obama promised us change. So far the change was corrupt cabinet members of his administration like Timothy Geithner Tax cheat aand of course Eric Holder. I think that was the change Obama was talking about. The Bank and Insurance bailout didn't work and neither is Obama's stimulus package. He just want to scare the American people so he can tax and spend like all Democrats do. I believe that the members of congress never did read the 1200 pages of of the Stimulus bill. That is why Harry REid snuck in $8 billion for the bullet traing from LA to Vegas and Obama geve $4 billion to ACORN.

    February 24, 2009 at 3:45 pm |
  38. Terry

    I agree Jennifer, in the next election I will be voting the same way. We need to clean house and it is past time for "CHANGE" I do not care what the party..you are out. Instead of them coming together and fixing the problems they are the problems. The country can not heal until we, as a country stand together. All they do is say it will not work, if they all showed unity and really put this countries needs ahead of petty politics maybe they could find a solution to the issues and get our country on the right track. I say we fire them all and start over. I do not trust any of them. No pork, just put the needs of this country first. It is my hope that President Obama will not sign anything with special earmarks. Itis time to take a stand and i hope it starts with him.

    February 24, 2009 at 3:31 pm |
  39. xtina, chicago IL

    Doesn't sound as if anything will "change" under Obama

    February 24, 2009 at 3:29 pm |
  40. Sharon S

    Earmarks? What you really mean is BS! Yes the same old selfish idiots like Pelosi are still pouring pork into the bill!

    My thoughts are this if these stupid politicians want these stupid things done they put their own money into if it is so important put your MONEY where YOUR mouth is!

    And keep mine out of it!

    February 24, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
  41. ARTBUFF

    IS THERE EVER A BILL, THAT COMES, UP, THAT ISN'T FILLED WITH EARMARKS?

    February 24, 2009 at 3:19 pm |
  42. Janine from PA.

    I believe Clinton temporarily had the line item veto right which was taken away by the sepreme court if I remember correctly. Too bad as the president could just go through all the pork that is not supposed to be part of the government budget and just cross them all out. If there ever going to be change (which I personnally highly doubt will ever happen which in no way takes away from President Obama's at least trying to change things) all congresspeople need to stop wasting our tax dollars! And taxpayers need to be involved and complain when their congress people do this kind of thing. They are so used to the status quo how can they stop themselves?

    February 24, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  43. Jim W

    there is a solution to this form of corruption. As with the President who is term limited, we should limit the terms of members of Congress. The House should have no more than 2 4 year terms, Sentors limited to 2 6 year terms. Then no one elected to federal office could lobby for 10 years following their term. No post term benefits so these people have to go back to real work like everyone else We would quickly move to citizen represetatives, instead of professional politicians who jockey for power 24/7. .

    February 24, 2009 at 3:07 pm |
  44. Shaman

    I am still confused as to why we are not going after those thief’s that have stolen most of the tax payers money like George W Bush and his cabinet members.
    Also isn’t it true that U.S is actually loosing the war that Osama Bin Laden raged against U.S.
    His objective was simple; it was to financially bleed United States slowly to harm the most people in the U.S. I personally think the guy is actually winning the war.
    I think that before U.S sinks any further, we should elect Osama as our president. I don't think he will continue to harm U.S if he becomes part of the U.S. We have enough laws in place to restrict what he does so I really don't see a problem with it.

    I know some Americans would rather die and let the innocent kids die along them before getting Obama into office but for the most of us, we all want to live and live happily along everyone else. If we can work together with those that are determined to bring U.S down, we might be able to change their mind and hopefully get their assistance in building U.S back up.

    February 24, 2009 at 3:06 pm |
  45. Maurice

    If military spending in the billions, plus the hundredths of millions for the eco hybrid cars of the government were eliminated from the stimulus.Now I advocate for green but that's just benefiting the government not the country as a whole.There be even more money to go towards the people of this country whose unemployed, and homes that have been foreclosed on.
    If we can get the wrong people in charge of the finances in large cities like Shirley Franklin and Purdue we'd really make progress.

    As it stands their debacles are especially purdues will cause a "civil-uprising".We were surprised he passed the to bare arms gun law.He's now talking about not passing the request for stimulus-aid the state needs!.How he thinks by not accepting the money in this economy won't affect his pocket too? "baffles me".And can you in the media address the president as such!,"bush got us in this" put you adressed him still as president bush unlike your anchors of late.

    February 24, 2009 at 2:56 pm |
  46. Jennifer

    In 2010 and 2012...it will be out with the old...I'm voting for people who have not served in the House or Senate ever before. It is time for "real change" and that isn't going to happen until we sweep both houses clean of the current people in them and leading them. And throw out the names Democrats and Republicans...it is time for Independents.

    February 24, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  47. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    you know the old saying, "there is more than one way to skin a cat,"-–believe me nothing compares on how many ways you can create pork. Why do we keep electing these officials? Why? It almost a thought for all Americans not to go to work or vote for a year--that would definitively resolve all our problems-–we need to start over--I wish I knew how to do that.

    February 24, 2009 at 2:35 pm |
  48. Clark

    and yet the polls indicate that Americans trust these same politicians that hide all of these earmarks within omnibus bills .... costing taxpayers hugh amounts of money .... more than they trust Wall Street ....

    I don't trust any of them ... but Capitol Hill is definitely on the bottom of the list.

    February 24, 2009 at 2:34 pm |
  49. Alyzabeth

    It sounds like our old system of checks and balances needs some new and improved checks and balances.

    February 24, 2009 at 2:11 pm |
  50. Travis

    It will be very interesting to see if Obama signs this into law or if he lives up to his promises and vetoes this bill due to "earmarks". Something tells me he will sign this bill as a thank you to congress for getting the $780 billion spending bill done.

    February 24, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
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