(CNSNews.com) – The spending bills approved for fiscal 2009 by the Democratic Congress include 10,160 earmarks that will cost taxpayers $19.6 billion, according to the Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).
CAGW, a watchdog group that monitors federal spending, released its “Congressional Pig Book” Tuesday listing the earmarks in the appropriations for 2009.
According to the CAGW report, money allocated by Congress in the form of earmarks rose from $17.2 billion in fiscal 2008 to more than $19.6 billion in fiscal 2009, the highest level of earmark spending since earmark reform legislation was enacted during the Bush administration in 2006.
“Vetoing the  omnibus would have sent a very strong signal to Congress, to the big spenders, to the appropriators, and to everyone that change had really come to Washington, D.C.,” said David Williams, a vice president for policy at CAGW. “Unfortunately we are seeing more of the same. It would have sent a strong signal that change has come. It was a budget in which he [Obama] had no political stake, he could have vetoed it with the stroke of pen.”
Among those who received awards for their earmarks were Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) who received the “porkersauras” award for securing $143,000 for the Las Vegas National History Museum; Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) who received the “Narcissist Award” for securing $2 million for the “Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholar Program”; and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) who received the “Mighty Windbag Award” for securing $45,575 in funding for a wind power project for the Harlem United Supportive Housing Fund.
Among the 10,160 projects identified as “congressional pork,” 9,939 of them ($11.8 billion) were requested by specific members of Congress while 221 ($7.8 billion) were “anonymous,” in that they were buried in defense appropriations and other bills with no identifiers.
But both Williams and Bob Shatz, the president of CAGW, said that earmarking is not a just a partisan problem.
“Pork has been used by both parties as re-election currency,” said Williams. “They use these projects to get re-elected every two or every six years. Most of Congress partakes in this process.”
“Pork has been used by both parties,” said Shatz.
Andrew Langer, president of the Institute for Liberty, also noted that it was Republicans’ massive levels of spending, including billions of dollars in earmarks, which caused them to lose a substantial number of seats in both the House and the Senate in 2006 and 2008.
“Its not a great mystery to me that the Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006,” said Langer. “Why? Because people were upset about out-of-control spending. The majority of Americans went out there and voted for change because they really wanted fundamental change in D.C. They believed the president when he came out and said he was against earmarks.”
But Shatz told CNSNews.com that he has not yet given up hope that Obama will keep his word and move towards reducing earmarks.
“Yes,” Shatz told CNSNews.com, “we do have some hope that they [earmarks] will be reduced.”
“It depends on how strong the president feels about earmarks -- how much an issue he wants to make out of them,” said Shatz. “It has to be different than what he did in the omnibus because he said it will be different. There are people watching this very closely.”
To draw attention to the issue of government waste, the CAGW also brought two live pigs and a man wearing a pig costume to the press conference. Also, CAGW employees distributed plastic masks shaped like pig snouts to the reporters in attendance.
For a summary of the 2009 Congressional Pig Book, click here.