(CNSNews.com) - Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and were the top award “winners” in the 2010 Congressional Pig Book Awards issued Wednesday by the taxpayer group Citizens Against Government Waste.
Harkin and Byrd jointly won the “Narcissist Award” for 2010 – a little-coveted award given to those members of Congress who request taxpayer money to fund projects named after themselves.
Harkin asked for $7,287,000 to continue what he calls the “Harkin Grant” program for renovating Iowa public schools.
Byrd similarly asked that $7 million in taxpayer funds be directed to the Robert C. Byrd Institute of Advanced Flexible Manufacturing Systems, which provides workforce training in technical manufacturing skills.
Meanwhile, Cochran, a Republican, beat out Democrat Byrd for the title of “King of Pork” – a label conservatives have often given to Byrd as a backhanded way of acknowledging the long-serving senator’s ability to appropriate earmarks for his home state.
In 2010, however, Cochran requested money for 240 favored projects, raking in a total of $490,176,000 this year -- more than any other senator. He was followed by Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who asked to spread $387,514,850 over 151 projects.
CAGW, which has tracked legislative earmarks or “pork-barrel” spending for two decades, also bestowed “honors” of dubious distinction to Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), who took home the “Jekyll and Hyde Award” for flip-flopping on his position on earmarks, and Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who won the “Hal Bent on Earmarking Award.”
According to CAGW, Lance first signed a no-earmark pledge, then he requested $20,752,000 in earmarks, and finally supported the earmark moratorium that House Republicans imposed on themselves in March.
Rogers, meanwhile, requested $10 million to fund the National Institute for Hometown Security, a research institute focused on protecting critical infrastructure, which is located in his state.
Each award-winner is highlighted in the “2010 Congressional Pig Book” – the taxpayer group’s annual report on those who had made the most audacious plays for pork.
According to CAGW President Tom Schatz, the awards recognize “dogged perseverance in the mad pursuit of pork.”
Only six senators did not make any pork-barrel requests for 2010, according to CAGW, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the leading voice in the Senate against the use of earmarks, in which members make requests specifically for their state, district, or pet project.
“You have made a difference in the debate,” McCain said, praising the anti-waste group at a Capitol Hill ceremony unveiling the Pig Book awards. “You have given us ammunition to use when we go home to talk to our constituents and make them understand how pernicious and how corrupting this process of earmarking is.”
McCain was joined on the list by Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who was also in attendance, Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), and just two Democrats – Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) was also on the list, but he has already announced his retirement.
Cochran, however, has not run from his appropriations requests. On March 16, he voted against a one-year moratorium proposed by DeMint because he said it would cede more power to the executive branch of the government.
“Earmarking has nothing to do with how much the federal government spends, but has everything to do with who decides,” Cochran said in a floor speech.
”The level of spending is not the question before us. The question proposed by (DeMint) is whether Congress will allow the executive branch to make 100 percent of all the decisions about how spending is allocated or whether Congress will preserve its Constitutional prerogative to appropriate the funds for the purposes that it deems meritorious.
“I think the people of my state are entitled to be represented by an advocated for projects and programs that benefit our state,” Cochran argued.
DeMint, however, disputed that notion on Wednesday, and said claims that the earmarks do not affect the level of spending are “bologna.”
“There are a lot of folks now in Congress, Republican and Democrats, who are arguing that earmarks don’t add anything to the budget -- it just allows Congress to direct it rather than the executive branch,” he told reporters.
“This is a bunch of bologna. We spend money here, to a large degree, because earmarks are the engine that pulls the train. Almost every bill has some kind of kickback,” DeMint said. “This has got to change.
“The folks who are saying they don’t drive spending or add to our budget frankly are just not telling the truth,” he added.
The 2010 Congressional Pig Book is available on the CAGW Web site.