WASHINGTON—Congress imposed a moratorium on earmarks on itself in 2011, but for the seventh consecutive year, an anti-government waste and fraud non-profit exposed nearly 300 new examples of the secret spending Wednesday.
“The 2019 Congressional Pig Book reveals that Washington has the pork-barrel fever, and their only prescription is more earmarks,” Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) president Thomas Schatz said in a statement accompanying public release of the compilation.
Earmarks are provisions in spending bills directing federal officials to spend tax dollars on a specific project, program or contract, often at the benefit of a family member, former staff aide or campaign donor to a senator or representative.
For decades, specific senators or representatives behind such earmarks were typically not identified publicly and the measures were added in bill reports from congressional conference committees.
In its summary of the latest pigbook, CAGW said the 2019 edition “exposes 282 earmarks in Fiscal Year 2019, (a 21.6 percent increase from FY 2018), costing taxpayers $15.3 billion (a 4.1 percent increase from FY 2018).”
The $15.3 billion is the most since 2010, the year before the moratorium was enacted. The new earmarks are contained in appropriations bills.
Among the most expensive examples singled out by CAGW were these:
- “$1.8 billion for seven earmarks for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, including eight additional planes for the Air Force, six for the Navy, and two for the Marine Corps. In development for nearly 18 years and eight years behind schedule, total acquisition costs now exceed $428 billion, nearly double the initial estimate of $233 billion … the F-35’s lifetime operation and maintenance costs will total approximately $1.2 trillion, the most expensive weapon system in U.S. history.”
- “$65 million for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. For the third consecutive year, President Donald Trump’s budget recommended eliminating its funding because it favors state, local, and/or industry interests, and are ‘not optimally targeted … favor certain species and geographic areas over others,’ and do not direct funds to programs and projects that have “the greatest need or potential benefit.’”
- “$13.8 million for wild horse and burro management (largest amount ever). Since FY 1992, legislators have added $18 million in earmarks for wild horse and burro management.”
- “$12 million for the aquatic plant control program (largest amount ever). Since FY 1994, aquatic plant control projects have been earmarked by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).”