Tracking Your Taxes: Bringing Home the Bacon

Looking for a great recipe for pork? Some states with small populations are getting hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks as veteran legislators carry back massive pork-barrel projects to their states and districts.

When it comes to bringing home the bacon, America's last frontier has long been first in line for government handouts, as sparsely populated Alaska continues to draw in hundreds of millions in pork-barrel payouts.

Over in Hawaii, lawmakers have been saying aloha to political pork, as their tiny population -- smaller than that of the Bronx -- pulls in about the same amount each year as all of New York State.

"When you look at the per capita analysis, it's all states who are ... relatively low-population but (have) powerful senators," said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

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Alaskans get $322.34 per resident, absolutely dwarfing the competition, according to a study prepared by Taxpayers for Common Sense. Hawaiians, rolling in at No. 2, get $234.96 per person. And North Dakota comes in a close third place with $222.22. The national average is a relatively paltry $29.60 per person.

"There isn't much fair about the way that earmarks are allocated and ... it's pretty easy to see that," said Ellis.

But it's not just the expenses themselves have some watchdogs in a bind: many of the pork projects serve dubious ends. Just take a look at some of the nation's two largest offenders:

Alaska:
-$200,000 for research on depleted king crab stocks in Alaska
-$1,187,500 for "airport improvement on a small island with 800 seasonal residents
-$714,000 to fund the a rural Alaska youth fitness initiative

Hawaii:
-$1.6 million to study marine mammal hearing and echolocation
-$3.2 million for an unmanned helicopter even the military didn't want
-$469,000 to build a facility to study fruit fly activity

Some Hawaiian believe that however questionable, the projects are in the interest of their state.

"If it serves Hawaii's economy and people, I believe it would be a useful expenditure," said Hawaii resident Catherine Ralston.

Others say giving out taxpayer cash to projects based on seniority, not merit, isn't useful but wasteful.

"When you can't account where all that money is going, it's not in our pockets, it's not helping out everybody," said Hawaii resident Nacia Blom.

Arizona is at the other end of the spectrum, and its residens are the recipients of less than $12 in pork per person.

"The scale of pork and the scale of waste is stunning, and quite frankly I think it's indefensible," said John Shadegg, R-Ariz.

Other states including California and Georgia have joined Arizona at the bottom of the barrel and get about $15 per person. Cutting down on the massive spending has become a leading charge for some lawmakers, who are urging voters to do the same.

"The American people need to rise up and say, 'Quit taking money out of my paycheck to buy yourselves back into office,'" said Shadegg, a member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

"This is a time when we really need to be watching how money is spent and I think I'd rather see them on the conservative side."