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Utah No. 13 in federal pork-barrel spending

Published: Thursday, April 15 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., looks at a pig during a news conference for the release of a report on pork-barrel spending.

Mark Wilson, Getty Images

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WASHINGTON — Utah ranks No. 13 when it comes to receiving federal pork-barrel spending, according to the annual "Congressional Pig Book" issued Wednesday by Citizens Against Government Waste.

The Pig Book — which revealed 9,129 earmarks nationally worth $16.5 billion last year — gave special recognition to Sen. Bob Bennett and Rep. Rob Bishop, both R-Utah, for bringing the bacon to their home state. That's the type of recognition that can bring political headaches.

For example, Bennett has been attacked for his earmarks by the seven conservative Republicans running against him this year, who say such spending usually is wasteful. But Bennett defends earmarks as allowing Congress to decide how to spend money instead of leaving all specific decisions to the Obama administration.

The Pig Book said Utah governments and companies obtained $151.3 million in earmarked "pork" spending in appropriations bills. That comes out to $54.34 per person in Utah, which ranked No. 13 in the nation and was double the national average of $27.36 per person.

That came even though one of Utah's five members of Congress — Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah — declined to seek any earmarks.

But the Pig Book said Bennett and Bishop were among some of the most effective users of earmarks.

It said that Bishop, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, was among those who obtained the most earmarks for defense projects. It said it counted $69.9 million worth that he obtained.

The Pig Book said Bennett, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which decides how to divide the annual budget pie, was among the most effective earmarkers in energy and water projects, in interior projects, and in projects for home-state education. It counted $51.3 million in Bennett earmarks for energy and water, $9.9 million in Interior earmarks, and $7.5 million in projects for education.

Bringing home pork was long ballyhooed by incumbents as a sign of how effective they were in serving local interests in Washington, but that has become less and less popular politically.

In fact, for fiscal 2011, House Democrats have said they will not request any earmarks that go to for-profit entities, and House Republicans are not requesting any earmarks at all, although the Pig Book says some exceptions and definitional questions remain.

Citizens Against Government Waste president Tom Schatz said the changes in the House show that "politicians from both parties recognize that taxpayers are enraged about the broken spending process in Washington."

He added, "They have noticed that it is popular to posture as an anti-earmarker. Unfortunately, the 2010 Congressional Pig Book illustrates that most members of Congress still aren't willing to eliminate the practice and why meaningful reform is necessary."

Bringing home the bacon

Rep. Rob Bishop

 Laser phalanx — $12 million

 Automated Composite Technologies and Manufacturing Center — $9.6 million

 UAV sensor and maintenance development center — $3.9 million

 Dugway field test improvements — $3.6 million

 TranSim driver training — $3.5 million

 Optimizing natural language processing of open source intelligence — $1.2 million

 Army force generation synchronization tool — $800,000

Sen. Bob Bennett

 Army Corps of Engineers projects in rural Utah — $20 million

 Utah Center for Ultra Clean Coal Utilization and Heavy Oil Research — $8 million

 Unconventional and renewable energy research using computer simulations — $3.5 million

 Arthur V. Watkins Dam feasibility study — $1 million

 Intermountain Center for River Restoration and Rehabilitation — $600,000

 Dixie National Forest land acquisition — $2.5 million

 Draper culinary reservoir — $500,000

 Historic Fisher Mansion Restoration Project, Salt Lake City — $150,000

 Western Governors University curriculum development — $600,000

 Weber State University teacher education and curriculum development — $500,000

 Southern Utah University facilities and equipment — $350,000

 I Won't Cheat Foundation anti-steroids awareness campaign — $250,000

Source: Citizens Against Government Waste annual "Pig Book"

This story was reported from Salt Lake City.

e-mail: lee@desnews.com

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