'Pig Book' Dishes Dirt On Pork

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For all the hand-wringing on Capitol Hill about larding bills with home state projects, the latest report from a taxpayer group says lawmakers hit a record last year.

Citizens Against Government Waste released its annual Pig Book on Wednesday, where it details $29 billion of the government-funded programs or perks members of Congress send back to their districts on a yearly basis.

For the uninitiated, "pork" means home state and home district projects specially set aside in congressional spending measures, chiefly the 11 annual appropriations bills.

Money for roads and bridges, grants to law enforcement agencies and charity groups, and water projects is well received back home, which in turn feeds lawmakers' appetites for the projects.

Some of these earmarks are more audacious than others. For example, last year there was a "bridge to nowhere," a $223 million project connecting Alaska's Gravina Island, population 50 to the mainland. That project drew so much ridicule from the media that an irate public successfully demanded that the bridge be shelved.

The anti-pork group has a pretty broad definition of what constitutes pork. Anything not specifically requested by President Bush automatically qualifies. Others prefer the know-it-when-you-see-it test.

Lots of earmarks qualify under either criterion. Consider a $1 million water-free urinal conservation initiative obtained by Rep. Vernon Ehlers, R-Mich., or a $500,000 grant for the Arctic Winter Games in Alaska, slipped into a Pentagon spending bill by GOP Sen. Ted Stevens.