Magazine article Insight on the News

Web Serves Up Bacon Bytes

Magazine article Insight on the News

Web Serves Up Bacon Bytes

Article excerpt

Like mushrooms, congressional pork-barrel projects grow best in the dark. Shine a little light on the appropriations process, long cloaked in secrecy and shadow, allowing the public to see for themselves what Congress is spending, and most ill-gotten booty won't survive the scrutiny.

That seems to be the thinking of Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, who is taking his often-lonely crusade to shrink the congressional pork barrel from the Senate floor to cyberspace. Visitors to McCain's Web site (www.senate.gov/~mccain) have merely to click on a lovable pink pig and the true dimensions of the pork problem, even in these allegedly frugal times, instantly become evident.

The site spotlights thousands of projects, worth more than $10 billion, that don't pass muster with McCain. If a project isn't authorized or competitively awarded, is added by a conference committee or circumvents existing law, then McCain includes it, along with some trenchant analysis of the latest techniques congressmen are using to raid the Treasury.

This year's appropriations bill for military construction contains 129 "unnecessary" projects worth $941 million, according to McCain. And the senator's staff found plenty of questionable earmarks elsewhere, including $7.1 million in economic-development funds for a jazz and a negro-leagues baseball museum in Missouri, $2 million for an art gallery in New York and $1.5 million to renovate a theater in Vermont.

The transportation-appropriations bill contains $2 million to restore a covered bridge in Vermont, $ 17 million for the Alaska Railroad and $23.4 million to renovate New York City's Pennsylvania Station (bringing the federal share in the project to $100 million). It also directs the U.S. Coast Guard to spend $68.1 million on 15 boats built at a Louisiana shipyard -- seven more than the Coast Guard requested -- and the purchase of a ferryboat, cost unspecified, for Taney County, Mo.

Taking congressional micromanagement of the government to extremes, the agriculture spending bill requires the Agriculture Research Service to hire two peanut researchers in Oklahoma and a potato breeder at a facility in Idaho and sets aside $250,000 for a staff increase at the Small Fruits Research Laboratory in Arkansas.

Other intriguing tidbits are $100,000 to design a subway linking the U.S. Capitol with a Senate office building just across the street, $500,000 to improve lighting in the Senate chamber and $550,000 for"clonal repositories and introduction stations" in three states. …

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