The 2010 Congressional Pig Book: 20 Years at the Trough (Update: PJTV link)

When Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) released the first Congressional Pig Book in 1991, the group was a lonely voice in the pork-barrel wilderness. There was only modest objection to the 546 projects worth $3.2 billion, and “earmark” was virtually unknown. The one constant since then has been the undisputed reign of the king of pork, Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who has brought home more than $3 billion in projects. 

After Republicans took over Congress in 1994, pork-barrel projects started to be used as a currency of reelection. Over the following decade, they became a currency of corruption, and the explosion in earmarks to their peak at $29 billion in 2006 helped erase the Republican majority.  The 9,129 projects in the 2010 Congressional Pig Book represent a 10.2 percent decline from the 10,160 projects identified in fiscal year 2009, and the $16.5 billion in cost is a 15.5 percent decrease from the $19.6 billion in pork in fiscal year 2009.

The reforms that were adopted when Democrats took over Congress in 2006 can be attributed to many years of work exposing earmarks, especially the outpouring of public outrage over projects such as $50,000,000 for an indoor rainforest in Iowa and $500,000 for a teapot museum in North Carolina.

The changes include greater transparency, with the names of members of Congress first appearing next to their requested projects in 2008, letters of request that identify where and why the money will be spent, and the elimination of earmarks named after sitting members of Congress in the House.

For fiscal year 2011, House Democrats are not requesting earmarks that go to for-profit entities; House Republicans are not requesting any earmarks (although there are both exceptions and definitional questions). Not surprisingly, the Senate has rejected any limits on earmarks. None of these reforms are sufficient to eliminate all earmarks, so CAGW expects there will still be a 2011 Congressional Pig Book.