These are dark days for earmarks, more commonly known as “pork.”
Packing bills with special provisions has long been a tradition in Congress, but a pall has fallen over the practice. Bolstered by a budget crisis and a series of scandals involving legislative favors, an increasingly prolific government watchdog movement is turning pork into a four-letter word. . . .
The watchdogs work closely with friendly lawmakers, such as Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, who tried to redirect funding for the “Bridge to Nowhere” to a New Orleans bridge ruined by Katrina. The informal investigative alliance also includes Internet bloggers, including a “porkbusters” campaign on the site TruthLaidBear.com, an online effort to mobilize against wasteful federal spending.
“It’s a $2.4 trillion budget,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. “There’s work for everybody.”
Congress is embarrassed enough by the Cunningham and Jack Abramoff scandals, both involving huge sums of cash for legislative favors, that lawmakers are considering ways to crack down on earmarks, which typically show up in bills at the last minute, after little or no scrutiny. The watchdog groups are wary that Congress will focus on lobbying activities, rather than clean up the legislative process.