(CNSNews.com) - Citing what it calls his long history of "military pork and corporate welfare," a taxpayers watchdog group has awarded Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) its "Porker of the Month" award.
According to Citizens Against Government Waste, Kennedy's wasteful spending record recently reached new heights when he earmarked $85 million taxpayer dollars in the fiscal 2001 Defense appropriations bill for projects benefiting high-dollar defense contractors in his congressional district.
The largest beneficiary, according to CAGW, was the Raytheon Corporation, which received $14 million for the SPS-73 Surface Search Radar, a project the Pentagon did not request.
The other projects included $24 million for cold weather gear and $3.7 million for medical research at Rhode Island hospital. According to CAGW, those projects were "zeroed out" in the Clinton Administration's budget, meaning that the Pentagon specifically requested that these projects receive no funding."
"Porking up the budget to benefit corporate interests is not uncommon among legislators," said Thomas Schatz, President of Citizens Against Government Waste. "Yet Kennedy manages to stand out by unashamedly touting his dedication to local contractors over America's defense priorities."
Kennedy is proud of what he has done for his Rhode Island district, according to his press secretary Larry Berman.
"The congressman is proud to bring home the bacon to our district. Raytheon is the largest, private employer in our district. The extra money that we are able to bring to them helps the economy. They employ 1,800 workers and we hope to continue to keep them in employment. That's why we're fighting for our state," Berman said.
According to Berman, "If it didn't go to Rhode Island, it would probably go to another state. We're fighting to get our fair share in a very small state. We're proud to fight for that."
The CAGW's Schatz wondered, "Does anyone remember when a Congressman's top priority for the defense budget was to defend America rather than to fatten the pockets of his local defense contractors?
"At a time when some enlisted men and women in our armed forces live in substandard housing and must use food stamps to feed their families, Representative Kennedy endeavors to use the defense budget as a slush fund for home-state corporate welfare."
Kennedy's district is the eastern half of Rhode Island, east of Narragansett Bay, a line that cuts through Providence and runs west and north to the Massachusetts-Connecticut-Rhode Island border.