By Alex Pappas
Published June 12, 2019
An anti-government waste group has identified millions of taxpayer dollars allegedly frittered away on “absurd nature-related earmarks,” including $9 million to “quarantine fruit flies” and $13.8 million to “manage wild horses.”
Those revelations are inside the 2019 Congressional Pig Book released Wednesday by Citizens Against Government Waste. That report identifies what it describes as egregious examples of pork-barrel spending in Congress, drawn from fiscal 2019 appropriations bills. This year, the group said it identified $15.3 billion in earmarks, an increase of 4.1 percent from the $14.7 billion last year.
“Pushing pork does not drain the swamp and it won’t restore integrity to Washington,” Tom Schatz, the president of Citizens Against Government Waste, said in a statement.
Schatz wrote in an op-ed for Fox Business Network that “perhaps the most flagrant earmark” this year is $16.7 million for a research organization called the East-West Center, added by Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii.
“His earmark represents the center’s entire budget, keeping it alive even though its counterpart, the North-South Center, stopped receiving federal funding in 2001,” the group’s president said. “The East-West Center should be able to stand on its own without taxpayer support as well.”
The report identifies other pricey earmarks, including $65 million to help recover Pacific Coastal Salmon, $12 million to control aquatic plants, $7.9 million to purchase fish screens and $863,000 to eradicate brown tree snakes in Guam.
The fruit fly program apparently was resumed after a 10-year pause. Further, according to the report, the $9 million earmarked this year for the program represents an 1,819 percent increase over the roughly half-million dollars set aside for "fruit fly research, eradication, or quarantine" a decade ago.
"It is also the third-largest earmark ever for this purpose," the report said.
Schatz said these examples show that “earmarks still corrupt Congress, waste taxpayer money and erode trust in government.” The group advocates enacting a permanent, statutory ban on earmarks.
But the group attributes the recent increase in pork-barrel spending to the 2018 passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act, which obliterated 2011 spending restraints.
The group also ripped the seven earmarks totaling $1.8 billion for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, including eight Air Force planes, six Navy planes 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 report states. “A 2019 DOD Selected Acquisition Report noted that the F-35’s lifetime operation and maintenance costs will total approximately $1.2 trillion, the most expensive weapon system in U.S. history.”