- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 24, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The government spending legislation caught up in the fight over tax returns includes several “special items” for industries and communities. One is for $443,000 to develop salmon-fortified baby food, another is for $350,000 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.

Lawmakers from both parties who approved the $388 billion package last weekend set aside several projects to sow good will in their home districts. Critics call them “pork-barrel initiatives.”

For instance, there was $50,000 to control Missouri’s wild-hog problem, $1 million for the Norwegian American Foundation in Seattle, $335,000 to protect North Dakota’s sunflowers from blackbirds, $4 million for the International Fertilizer Development Center in Alabama.

There’s little mystery about why such spending survives in good times or bad.

“They do it because they can get away with it; they do it because it’s the thing that allows them to do a good press release back home and be able to say to folks, ‘I’m delivering something for you,’” said Frank Clemente, a spokesman for the advocacy group Public Citizen.

When President Bush took office, he promised to cut pet projects from the federal budget, but the president has yet to veto a spending bill. He is expected to sign the new plan as well, although not until after Congress repeals an obscure provision that would give some lawmakers and staff the right to see taxpayers’ returns.

Within hours of the bill’s passage, lawmakers were promoting the projects they had brought home to constituents. In federal budgets, what is derided as pork-barrel spending by one constituency is embraced by another as well-deserved local aid.

Oregon’s senators, Democrat Ron Wyden and Republican Gordon H. Smith, put out an 11-page press release Sunday sharing credit for several hundred million dollars headed to their state. Projects the money will finance include “wood utilization research,” a barley gene-mapping project, remodeling of a cafeteria at Crater Lake National Park and the West Coast Groundfish Observer Program undertaking.

Ohio Reps. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a Democrat, and Steven C. LaTourette, a Republican, boasted about the $350,000 for music-education programs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.

Nicole Williams, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Tubbs Jones, said another lawmaker requested the funding but the congresswoman supported it. With a deficit in Cleveland’s public school system and music education among the programs being cut, the museum funding could benefit the city as a whole, Miss Williams said.

Alaska Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens claimed credit for channeling federal money to the state’s salmon industry, including the money to research the use of salmon as a base for baby food. Michigan’s two Democratic senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, said Monday that they had won $4 million for an environmentally friendly public transportation system in Traverse City.

Sen. Richard C. Shelby, an Alabama Republican who serves on the Appropriations Committee, took credit for $4 million budgeted for the fertilizer development center: “In addition to the important research conducted at this facility, the facility employs numerous Muscle Shoals-area residents.”

Many of the special items that made the cut were promoted by lobbyists hired by interest groups, companies or communities to convince lawmakers that money was needed for their projects.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, delivered a half-hour floor speech with examples, citing a plan for $1 million for the Wild American Shrimp Initiative.

“I am hoping that the appropriators could explain to me why we need $1 million for this — are American shrimp unruly and lacking initiative? Why does the U.S. taxpayer need to fund this ‘no shrimp left behind’ act?” Mr. McCain asked his colleagues.

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