Lawmakers join ‘pig book’ authors to cut (congressional) pork

Authors of the 25th edition of the "Congressional Pig Book," an annual, published collection of pork barrel spending, hope Washington lawmakers will squeal when they see the list of their pet projects.

Authors of the 25th edition of the “Congressional Pig Book,” an annual, published collection of pork barrel spending, hope Washington lawmakers will squeal when they see the list of their pet projects.

Citizens Against Government Waste has put together a Pig Book every year since 1991. The book features members of Congress from both parties whom the authors say are responsible for the most spending through earmarks — appendages to appropriations bills that benefit local projects and win favor at home — also known as pork.

The authors are hosting an event Wednesday — complete with live pig named Faye — to advocate for cutting and preventing the spread of earmarks, and the event is expected to attract several high profile Republican lawmakers. Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Joni Ernst of Iowa are expected to speak, as are Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker of North Carolina, former RSC Chair Bill Flores of Texas, Reps. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Jim Banks of Indiana.

Flake called the book a “blueprint for saving taxpayers billions of dollars.”

“It’s an essential resource for those of us in Congress working to identify and eliminate pork projects,” Flake told CNN in a statement.

Walker told CNN that any effort in “bringing back earmarks after the American people voted against the corrupt, business-as-usual, establishment would be a big mistake.”

“The election in November sent a message that the American people want to stop corrupt and wasteful practices in Washington,” Walker told CNN in a statement. “Crony capitalism, pork-barrel spending, and favors for special interests have no place in Congress.”

In 2011, Congress enacted an earmark moratorium, but earlier this year, the House of Representatives publicly considered reversing the ban. A group of Republican senators wrote to President Donald Trump in March asking him to promise to veto any effort to revive earmarks, and the effort to undo the earmark ban never fully developed.

Some critics have argued that the removal earmarks has led to some of the gridlock in Washington over the past seven years, because it removed a legislative tool that could help deals get done in Congress.

“Trying to be a leader where you have no sticks and very few carrots is dang near impossible,” Trent Lott, a former Republican Senate majority leader and House minority whip, told CNN in 2013. “Members don’t get anything from you and leaders don’t give anything. They don’t feel like you can reward them or punish them.”

CAGW is a nonprofit advocacy group that has been criticizing what it sees as government waste since 1984, but the book itself debuted in 1991. Over the years, it has called attention to a variety of earmarks — including $165,000 for maple research in Vermont, $500,000 to construct the Sparta Teapot Museum in Sparta, North Carolina, and $273,000 for “combating goth culture.” It has also given out awards, such as the “Porkasaurus” award in 2009 to former Sen. Harry Reid for requesting $143,000 for the Las Vegas Natural History Museum.

CAGW president Tom Schatz said Wednesday’s event is aimed at preventing earmarks from spreading.

“The 2017 Pig Book shows once again that any earmark is a bad earmark,” Schatz said. “Taxpayers should deliver a loud and clear message that it is time for earmarks to be banned, once and for all.”