Giant Omnibus Bill Includes $7.7 Billion in Earmarks for Bugs, Pigs, Parking – and La Raza

By Matt Cover | March 6, 2009 | 5:30 PM EST

National Council of La Raza event. (AP photo)

( – Termite research, walrus rehabilitation and pig manure are among the more than 8,570 of earmarks in the omnibus spending package currently before the Senate. Critics charge the bill is stuffed full of so many pork barrel projects -- $7.7 billion worth -- that President Barack Obama should veto it.

Perhaps the most controversial is a direct earmark for a Hispanic civil-rights group -- the National Council of La Raza -- worth $950,000. The group has been a lighting rod of controversy since it helped organize large protests in 2006 aimed at derailing efforts by conservative congressional Republicans to enforce U.S. immigration laws.
La Raza, which opposes raids and other aggressive law enforcement tactics, says that the federal money will go solely to its community action subsidiary, the Raza Development Fund, which it says provides loans for housing, education, and healthcare centers in Hispanic areas, according to information on the group’s website.
La Raza says that most of the fund’s money comes from private financial institutions, including Bank of America and Citibank.
The late Rep. Charles Norwood (R-Ga.) first criticized earmarks for La Raza in 2005 in the magazine Human Events saying federal money shouldn’t be used for groups who don’t support U.S. laws.
“We ought not to send taxpayer's money to people who absolutely advocate . . . using that money for the country not to follow the law of the land and not to secure our country's borders,” Norwood wrote., meanwhile, has examined the entire list of declared earmarks in the bill and found other questionable projects ranging from honey bee labs and obesity research to million-dollar hiking trails and a parking garage.
Agricultural projects accounted for many of the most suspect requests including:
-- $6.6 million for Formosan subterranean termite research in Louisiana, requested by Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.)
-- $1.7 million for the honeybee lab in Weslaco, Texas, requested by Sen. Jim Johnson (D-S.D.)
-- $1.1 million for mosquito trapping research in Gainesville, Fla.
-- $1.8 million for “swine odor and manure management” in Ames, Iowa, requested by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).
-- $1 million for “mormon crickets” in Utah, requested by Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah)
-- $935,000 for egg pasteurization in Michigan requested by former Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.)
-- $2.9 million for “shrimp aquaculture” in Arizona, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas
-- $1.5 million for “pinniped research” in Alaska. Pinnipeds are a class of animals that includes walruses, seals, and sea lions.
Financing and land-use issues also accounted for considerable amounts of questionable projects such as:
-- $491,000 for the Baltimore City Public School System’s health care program
-- $950,000 for the Myrtle Beach International Trade and Convention Center in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
-- $100,000 for a “robotics training center” in the City of Union, S.C.
-- $300,000 for the Montana World Trade Center
Land and construction provisions provided probably the richest areas for pork-barrel spending, with projects ranging from parking garages to nature trails – all being funded by U.S. taxpayers:
-- $1.5 million for the California National Historic Trail Interpretive Center in Nevada
-- $2.2 million for the Arkansas River Special Recreation Management Area in Colorado
-- $500,000 for the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail in California
-- $332,000 for buses at the Bronx Zoo in New York City
-- $855,000 for the Chelsea Intermodal Parking Garage in Chelsea, Mass.
-- $1.9 million for the Pleasure Beach water taxi in Connecticut
-- $2.9 million for bicycle and pedestrian trail improvements in Illinois
-- $475,000 to renovate the façade of the Italian American Museum in New York City