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EDITORIAL: Belly up to the trough — it’s a feeding frenzy

When it comes to promoting their re-elections and rewarding special interests, lawmakers love few things more than raiding the treasury.

Year after year, the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste performs a vital service and tracks how lawmakers make a mockery of the political process by directing chunks of the federal budget back to their districts and states in the form of wasteful earmarks.

Last week, the organization released its 2024 Congressional Pig Book, the 32nd edition of the group’s exposé on pork-barrel spending. The 2024 review outlines 8,222 earmarks, 11.2 percent more than in fiscal 2023, costing $22.7 billion. That’s the fifth-highest total since the group released the first Pig Book in 1991.

Since fiscal 1991, CAGW has identified a whopping 132,434 earmarks costing $460.3 billion. That’s a lot of slop in the trough.

Here are the group’s winners for this year’s most offending spenders:

■ Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, received The Crabby Pork Award for diverting $4 million to the Alaska King Crab Enhancement Project.

■ Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Democrats, received The You Cannot be Serious Award for funneling $1.75 million to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City despite the fact that the museum held net assets of $5 billion in 2023.

■ Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., received The We’re Going to Need a Bigger Boat Award after handing out $190,000 for a shark repellent study at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, which had an operating budget of $36 million in 2023.

■ Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., received The House of Pork Award for 13 earmarks costing more than $270 million, the most in the House.

■ Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, received The Whole Hog Award for 231 earmarks costing more than $575 million, easily the biggest amount of any member of Congress — despite representing the 12th-smallest and one of the least populated states.

As you can see, pork is a bipartisan addiction.

“Earmarks continue to be the most corrupt, costly and inequitable practice in the history of Congress,” CAGW President Tom Schatz said.

After an 11-year moratorium, Congress revised earmarks in fiscal 2022. As CAGW points out, the revived earmarks — despite a futile attempt to cover them up by designating them as “Community Project Funding” — are similar to the old earmarks that were included in the appropriations bills passed by Congress during fiscal 2008 through 2010.

“American People Fleecing” would be a better name.

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