WASHINGTON – The town known for checking a groundhog's shadow to learn if winter will last six more weeks is receiving $100,000 in taxpayer dollars this year for the Punxsatawney Weather Discovery Center Museum.
Government spending watchdog Citizens Against Government Waste (search) gives a yearly assessment of congressional pet projects that made it into the annual budget. In fiscal year 2005, that sum totaled a record $27.3 billion, the organization said Wednesday as it released its 2005 Congressional Pig Book.
"My favorite this year is the $100,000 for the Punxsatawny Weather Discovery Center Museum (search). We are now funding groundhogs," said Sen. John McCain (search), R-Ariz., a longtime critic of congressional pork, who attended the release of CAGW's report.
Complete with props, live pigs and the mascot called Porky, CAGW President Tom Schatz said no end is in sight for the continued pork-barrel spending.
"We used to rent this pig suit. For 15 years, we were hoping we wouldn't need it next year. We gave up. We bought the pig suit because there is no sign that the tidal wave of pork on Capitol Hill will abate anytime soon," Schatz said.
The projects targeted include $469,000 for the National Wildlife Turkey Federation (search) in South Carolina. The group supports, among other things, wild turkey hunting as a traditional North American sport.
The state of Alabama received $1.7 million for the International Fertilizer Center (search).
"That, of course, receives the 'Don't Step On It' award," Schatz said.
The Tiger Woods Foundation (search) also received $100,000.
"And it was only in the last week or so that the foundation even realized it was getting the money," Schatz said.
Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens has been at the top of the list for the last four years for acquiring money for local projects in his state.
"But this time, Sen. Stevens, the outgoing and now former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, really went whole hog. He added $646 million for his state, which equates to $985 per capita," Schatz said.
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd also rarely escapes criticism for inserting into various congressional bills funding for hometown projects.
"Americans don't send their hard-earned tax dollars to Washington so Sen. Byrd can take $399 million back to West Virginia and earn the 'Flipping the Bird' of the taxpayers award," Schatz said.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (search) in Cleveland, Ohio, makes the list for receiving $350,000 for music education programs. But that is just one of the halls of fame making the Pig Book this year. The Paper Industry Hall of Fame (search) in Appleton, Wis., earned $70,000.
"It is to honor any individual, living or deceased, who has pioneered or uniquely helped the paper industry flourish. (They are) eligible for induction into the paper industry hall of fame. I believe many people who work here in Washington and Capitol Hill are eligible for membership," McCain said.
In its defense, a representative of the Paper Industry Hall of Fame said the organization is using the money for a science and technology center for children. Conservative columnist George Will added that anyone who gets up in arms over congressional pork should realize that the total sum spent on pet projects is just a blip in the overall budget.
"It is trivial as a sum of money. It is a rounding error when it comes to the prescription drug entitlement that this Congress and a vast amount of American people seem to want," Will told FOX News. "Second, there is a sense in which in a continental democracy that is not unified by ideology, that is unified by factions and interests and involves a lot of coalition building, pork is one of the ways you build coalitions and engage in log rolling."
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Mike Emanuel.