Sunday, April 18, 2004

The District has received $181 million from Congress in fiscal 2004 for pork-barrel projects such as improving local teachers’ relationships with their Caribbean counterparts and building a dance studio in Anacostia, according to a recent report by a government watchdog group.

The city — even without full voting representation in Congress — has received the nation’s third-largest amount of pork spending per capita, behind Alaska and Hawaii, the nonprofit Citizens Against Government Waste reports in its annual “Pig Book.” The spending amounts to more than $321 per D.C. resident.

About $150 million in pork-barrel funds has been appropriated through various federal agencies for nonbudget-related D.C. expenditures such as $1.5 million for sleep-deprivation research at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and $500,000 for a Girl Scouts science and math program.

Moreover, $31 million has been added to the 2004 D.C. Appropriations Act to be distributed by city officials for 60 projects, most of which are run by private groups. Among those projects:

• $1.125 million to the Shakespeare Theater, $1 million of which is for construction of a downtown facility that will provide affordable access to the arts and $125,000 for educational-outreach programs.

• $250,000 to the Caribbean American Mission for Education, Research and Action, which, according to its Web site (, builds “linkages between educators in the Caribbean and educators in the District of Columbia, Philadelphia and New York region to share expertise in educational methodologies.”

• $350,000 for a project called Soaring Towards Educational Enrichment via Equine Discovery Inc.

No details could be found on the project.

• $100,000 to complete construction of a dance studio at the Anacostia Town Hall and Entertainment Center.

The watchdog group characterizes appropriations as pork if they meet two of the following seven criteria: serves only a local or special interest, is requested by only one chamber of Congress, is not requested by the president, is not competitively awarded, is not specifically authorized, is not subjected to congressional hearings, or exceeds the president’s budget or the previous year’s funding.

Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, said the District’s pork-barrel projects are an indication that congressional spending is not based on priorities, adding that the city has “a lot of basic needs that aren’t being met.”

Mr. Schatz said it was unlikely that providing funds for specific pork projects would prevent Congress from giving the District money for other needs, such as a request last month for $26 million for costs associated with controlling the level of lead in the city’s drinking water.

He said it would be “hypocritical” to give the city funds for unrequested projects and deny it money for requested programs.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams defended the funding for unrequested projects, saying the merits of each program should be considered individually.

“You need to look at not only is it for a discrete purpose, but what kind of good is it doing,” Mr. Williams said.

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