- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Members of Congress have a lot to brag about to their constituents this holiday season, from helping the University of Idaho put its jazz history archive on the Internet to creating a regional agency to spur the Mississippi Delta's economy.
The massive spending bill Congress sent President Clinton last week before adjourning, which allowed final approval of more than $450 billion in spending, was best known for its money for hiring teachers, biomedical research and other high-profile programs.
But sprinkled liberally throughout are funds for hundreds of projects for the folks back home, plus entire bills that failed to make it through Congress on their own for lack of support or time.
That includes $750,000 to refurbish the Turner Joy, the destroyer that reported being attacked in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964. The incident helped persuade Congress to grant President Johnson broad authority to wage war against North Vietnam. The ship now serves as a museum in Bremerton, Wash.
Also included is $213,000 for Marin County, Calif., to study high breast cancer rates in the San Francisco Bay area; $6 million to help the University of Tennessee establish a school of government named after former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker, Tennessee Republican; and language that will let the Colorado Ute Indian tribes divert water from the Animas and La Plata rivers, a smaller version of a project that has provoked objections from environmentalists.
There are so many projects, in fact, that it is hard to imagine that many members of Congress didn't get something for somebody back in the district.
"Does that surprise you?" asked Carol Cox Wait, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which advocates a balanced budget. "We ought to be more frugal, period."
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, agreed. Mr. McCain opposed the measure, in part, because he says he counted at least $1.9 billion in "pork" that was not properly weighed against competing needs.
"We paved our way home by spending billions of taxpayers' dollars on budget items that never went through a merit-based review process," he said in a written statement.
That's not how the projects' sponsors see them.
The University of Idaho, for example, won $700,000 to help it make available on the Internet its collection of musical scores, recordings, instruments, clothing and papers of many of the country's top jazz musicians. These include Lionel Hampton for whom the university's music school and annual jazz festival are named and other jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Kenton.
To get the money, school officials worked closely with Idaho's congressional delegation, especially Republican Sen. Larry E. Craig, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and one of Congress' most conservative members. They are adamant that "pork" does not apply to the expenditure.
"We think even though it's located in Idaho, it is a national treasure," said Marty Peterson, assistant to Bob Hoover, the university's president.
"One man's pork is another man's awesome educational tool, and that's what Sen. Craig believes this program will provide," said Craig spokesman Will Hart.
Among the masters of the process are Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which writes the measures. Mr. Stevens' office released a list of several dozen items in the bill worth more than $200 million to Alaska, including $500,000 to train Alaskans who have lost timber industry jobs and $1 million for Bering Sea crab research.
The bill also sets up the Delta Regional Authority, an agency that will help poor communities in the Mississippi Delta get federal aid and take other steps to boost economic growth.

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