Of the three morning shows, only ABC's “Good Morning America” highlighted the implications of a new report on pork barrel spending by the group Citizens Against Government Waste [CAGW]. GMA was the sole network morning program to mention that Democrats broke their campaign promise to cut such pork projects in half. On Wednesday, NBC's “Today” show skipped the subject completely and although CBS's “Early Show” covered the report, correspondent Sharyl Attkisson ignored the $296 and $97 million, respectively, in pork spending that Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are responsible for.
GMA reporter Jake Tapper, while discussing the just released Pig Book, a CAGW compendium of wasteful government spending, announced, “Congress stuffed into the fiscal year 2008 spending bills 11,610 pork barrel projects, the second highest total ever.” Tapper alone highlighted this salient point about the differences between Clinton, Obama and Republican Senator John McCain: “Senator Hillary Clinton is the biggest porker of the three. 281 earmarks worth $296 million. Senator Obama is next. 53 earmarks worth $97 million. Senator John McCain has never requested an earmark.”
Instead of pointing out the stark differences between the candidates on this issue, CBS reporter Attkisson blandly observed, “Both of the Democratic presidential candidates, Senators Clinton, Obama, have voted for a [earmark spending] moratorium, but it doesn't have enough support to pass.” She also avoided partisan labels when reciting a particularly egregious example of pork from “Congressman” James Clyburn. Clyburn, of course, is a Democrat. In fact, Attkisson failed to even mention that the Democrats control Congress.
A transcript of the April 2 “Good Morning America” and “Early Show” segments follow:
CHRIS CUOMO: The least popular book in Congress comes out today. The Pig Book, the digest of Washington's wasteful or so-called pork spending. Our senior political correspondent Jake Tapper has some of the highlights for us. Good morning, Jake.
JAKE TAPPER: Good morning, Chris. Well, it's that time of year when we're all thinking about how our government spends our money with tax day coming right around the corner. And so many Americans in financial dire straights this year, but that has not stopped Congress from packing spending bills with pork barrel projects spending, as we see in the Citizens Against Government Waste annual Pig Book. $7.5 million being spent on grape and wine research. $460,000 for hops research. Democrats had promised to cut the number of pork barrel projects in half, but that has not happened. Congress stuffed into the fiscal year 2008 spending bills 11,610 pork barrel projects, the second highest total ever. None of it going through the normal vetting process for spending problems. It includes $72,000 for the National Wild Turkey Federation. $188,000 for the Lobster Institute in Maine. And Forrest Gump would be proud, $3 million for research into shrimp.
[“Forrest Gump” clip]
TAPPER: There are $742,000 for fruit fly research. $211,000 of which will be spent in Paris.
TOM SCHATZ (President, Citizens Against Government Waste): Regardless what we all think of the French, and everyone has their opinion, this is not a federal government responsibility.
TAPPER: All told, $17.2 billion in earmarks a 30 percent increase from last year. How did the presidential candidates do this year, Chris? Well, Senator Hillary Clinton is the biggest porker of the three. 281 earmarks worth $296 million. Senator Obama is next. 53 earmarks worth $97 million. Senator John McCain has never requested an earmark. Chris?
CUOMO: All right, Jake. Thank you. this is Chris trying to keep a straight face. Appreciate that, Jake.
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Ever heard of the "Pig Book?" It lists the biggest pork-barrel projects in Congress. The latest edition is out today, stuffed with pet projects paid for with your tax dollars. CBS News Investigative Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson is on Capitol Hill. Sharyl good morning.
SHARYL ATTKISSON: Good morning Maggie. Despite all the talk on Capitol Hill about the need to cut back or even eliminate earmarks altogether, the latest report shows it's an addiction that many seem to find hard to break. Helping disadvantaged youth get into the game of golf sounds like a good idea. That's what a program called First Tee does. It's got tons of corporate support.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The First Tee has established a vast network of corporate partners that offer resources, products, and services.
ATTKISSON: And First Tee is overseen by a group with a contingent of executives pulling in healthy six-figure salaries. So why is $3 million of your tax money also going to support it? And from the military budget, no less. It's all thanks to Congressman James Clyburn who gave First Tee the money in an earmark. An earmark is a grant of money outside the normal public review.
LESLIE PAIGE (CAPW): You know, when you're at war and, you know, you got a war on two fronts, the first thing you think of is golf, isn't it? I mean, it's the first thing that comes to mind.
ATTKISSON: First Tee is just one of the so-called pork projects highlighted in the new "Pig Book" put out by the tax watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste. The "Pig Book" portrays a Congress with an insatiable appetite for pork, spending your tax dollars on pet projects, often to help them win votes or campaign contributions. There's $3 million to help the diamond trade. Nearly a million dollars to manage noxious weeds in Idaho. And there's money for the National Mule and Packers Museum, and a walking tour of a tiny town in Virginia, population 474. All together there are more earmarks than ever this year. 11,600 of them, totaling over $17 billion spent by members of Congress. We've been told by some of them the money is going to be spent. I need to get my district its fair share.
PAIGE: There is no competitive bidding. There is no accountability. So this is money that is secretive and unaccountable. That is not a way to spend taxpayer dollars. In fact, it is an invitation to corruption.
ATTKISSON: Enough members of Congress agree that there's been a move to at least temporarily halt earmarks. Both of the Democratic presidential candidates, Senators Clinton, Obama, have voted for a moratorium, but it doesn't have enough support to pass. Maggie.