The federal government is spending millions to save Pacific Coast salmon. And it’s doling out more than $600,000 to kill brown tree snakes in Guam.
A watchdog group, Citizens Against Government Waste, on Wednesday released its annual Congressional Pig Book of what it considers the most egregious examples of pork-barrel spending in Congress, drawn this time from fiscal year 2018 appropriations bills.
According to the group, earmarks in 2018 totaled $14.7 billion, an increase of 116.2 percent from $6.8 billion in 2017.
Among the most blatant examples of pork flagged by the group:
-- $65 million for “Pacific coastal salmon recovery.” According to its website, the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund “was established by Congress in 2000 to reverse the declines of Pacific salmon and steelhead, supporting conservation efforts in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska.”
-- $11 million for an “aquatic plant control program.” The group said that since 1994, there have been 24 earmarks worth $58.1 million for aquatic plant control projects.
-- $663,000 for a “brown tree snake eradication program.” According to Citizens Against Government Waste, the snakes are “native to northern Australia, Indonesia and many islands in Melanesia, and have caused damage to the ecosystem of Guam, where they were likely introduced by the U.S. military following World War II.”
-- $10 million for “high-energy cost grants” within the Rural Utilities Service.
- $2.8 million for the National Capital Arts and Cultural Affairs grant program, which funds arts and cultural institutions in Washington, D.C.
A number of Republican lawmakers attended Wednesday’s press conference on the list, including Sens. Jeff Flake, Ted Cruz and Joni Ernst, of Arizona, Texas and Iowa, respectively.
To be considered for listing in the group’s annual book, an earmark must meet at least one criterion, including whether it was requested by only one chamber of Congress; if it was not specifically authorized; if it was not competitively awarded; if it was not requested by the president; if it greatly exceeds the president’s budget request or the previous year’s funding; if it was not the subject of congressional hearings; or if it serves only a local or special interest.