Government waste

The taxpayer has few allies as persistent and prolific in sniffing out pork as Citizens Against Government Waste. For more than 20 years, the nonprofit has exposed the most eggregious, unjustified and opaque spending in Washington and the unprincipled lawmakers behind it all.

Over the past few years, the group has reached out to state organizations equally committed to reining in waste at the local government level. This week, the Nevada Policy Research Institute, with assistance from Citizens Against Government Waste, released "The Nevada Piglet Book 2008," an easy-to-read, 32-page booklet documenting all kinds of wasteful spending in the Silver State.

From computers to contracting, from culture to public employee compensation, the booklet details frivolous expenditures that can be found almost anywhere.

In a meeting with the Review-Journal's editorial board, David E. Williams, a policy vice president with Citizens Against Government Waste, was asked what kind of pork was exclusive to Nevada.

"What's unique to Nevada is the amount of junk governments give away to the public," Mr. Williams said. "Maybe it's a cultural thing." (Obviously, Mr. Williams has never been to a slot club giveaway.)

For example, the "Piglet Book" highlights the five-figure slush funds granted to most city council and county commission members and the worthless knickknacks they print their names on to "familiarize residents with their elected officials."

The wasteful expenditures include $1,200 for pencils and bottles, courtesy of Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Wolfson; $1,000 for beach balls, brought to you by Councilman Steve Ross; and $795 for candy bars bearing the name of former Councilman (and current Clark County Commissioner) Lawrence Weekly. Other elected officials have spent $3,400 on backpacks, $1,950 for finger-painting kits and $327 for Halloween bags.

The booklet can be downloaded at The point of the project "is not getting rid of government," Mr. Williams said. "It's that more efficient and responsible spending means government can serve more people.

"People don't hate government, they hate what government is doing with their money."

Exactly. And only through such investigations and greater transparency in government appropriations can the public expect to learn where their hard-earned dollars are going -- or, in the case of Nevada, what trinkets they're buying.