If bringing home the pork is the measure, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Slade Gorton gave good politics last year. The just-released Congressional Pig Book, an annual review of federal pork barrel spending published by D.C.-based Citizens Against Government Waste, ascribes more than $60 million in arguably wasteful spending to Seattle Democrat Murray and Eastside Republican Gorton (since unseated by Seattle Dem Maria Cantwell).
Among their misappropriations, says the watchdog group, was $20 million (out of $40 million earmarked for the 1999 Pacific Salmon Treaty) that went to Washington state's Department of Fish and Wildlife, $16.5 million in transportation projects that included $2 million for cooperative safety research at the Western Washington University Vehicle Research Institute, and another $16 million for a group of projects that included $1.4 million for a Navy recreation center in Bremerton.
The two senators also garnered $9 million in other questioned funding that included $100,000 to determine if federal takeover of maintenance at Lake Wallula is economically justifiable and another $500,000 for projects at the Seattle Art Museum (which, the watchdoggers note, at the time had a fund balance of $60 million).
Similarly, Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, got $500,000 for the International Glass Museum development in Tacoma and another $1.9 million for that Navy rec center in Bremerton. Dicks, a Pig Book regular, procured $13.6 million altogether in military projects, including phase two of an industrial skills center at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard ($10 million) and $1.7 million for a National Guard readiness center in Bremerton. (Dicks is fondly remembered by pork historians for once appropriating $300,000 to study whether wolves might survive in the Olympic Mountains.)
Still, the state's top pork barrel threesome are pikers compared to some in the 2001 Pig Book (available online at www.cagw.org), which details 433 projects totaling $3.5 billion in waste. (Among the pork criteria: The money was requested by only one chamber of Congress and was not specifically authorized or competitively awarded.) In particular, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., doled out $460 million to his home state, earning the "Pillager from Pascagoula Award." And Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens got the "American Expense Award: Don't Leave Nome Without It" for garnering $480 million in pork that equals $766 per Alaskan. (Sen. John McCain, noting that Stevens had earmarked $170,000 of his pork for the Reindeer Herders Association of Alaska, piped, "I know that Santa Claus is pleased.")
Still, one man's pork is another's dire funding. As the late Sen. Warren Magnuson—famed for adding a line to an innocuous appropriations bill that quietly gave birth to the Grand Coulee Dam—once asked, "What do they want me to do, send the money to New Jersey?"