Citizens Against Government Waste, Pig Book 2004
(Released April 7, 2004)
And see, below:
ABC New's coverage, below: Greg Hunter, "Politics and Pork: Are Your Taxes Headed to the Pork Barrel?", abcnews.com, April 7, 2004
Mike Madden, "Group Singles Out Rain Forest: Coralville Project Tops 'Pig Book,'" Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 8, 2004
This year Energy and Water appropriators were very interested in requesting a deluge of special interest projects, such as indoor rainforests. The result was a fiscal 2004 Energy and Water Appropriations bill that was filled to the brim with pork. The number of pork projects increased by 27 percent, from 487 in fiscal 2003 to 617 in fiscal 2004. While the projects increased, the total dollar amount decreased 58 percent, from $1.7 billion in fiscal 2003 to $714 million in fiscal 2004.
$50,000,000 added in conference for an indoor rainforest project in Coralville, Iowa by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-Iowa). The project, which originally was included in the Energy Policy Act of 2003 bill that failed to pass in December, 2003, became so indispensable that Sen. Grassley added it to the Omnibus Appropriations Bill in late January 2004. When completed, Iowa will have the world’s largest enclosed rainforest, spanning five acres. A local businessman, Ted Townsend (heir to the Townsend meat-packing fortune), came up with this idea while contemplating his legacy on a treadmill. Since then, Townsend has worked to see that taxpayers will pay dearly for his dream to be realized. The project, which is estimated to cost $225 million, includes a generous $5 million from Townsend. This tropical boondoggle has some big name supporters, such as former Iowa Governor Bob Ray (R), who is the chairman of the institute Townsend founded to oversee the production of the rainforest. Ray imagines that it will solve the state’s “demographic problems” by drawing more people to move to Iowa. Ray also believes that mass quantities of retiring baby boomers will “crisscross the country” to visit the indoor rainforest. Senator Grassley claims that it will somehow help the University of Iowa. Ultimately, this project will do nothing for Iowa’s population, energy industry, or the environment, but it will soak the taxpayers.
About $2 million in federal tax funds will go to a Florida program encouraging kids to take up golf.
Are Your Taxes Headed to the Pork Barrel?
By Greg Hunter
ABCNEWS.comApril 7— From an indoor rain forest in Iowa to a Florida program that encourages children to play golf, American taxpayers are footing the bill for some serious pork-barrel spending this year, according to a new report.
|"The Pig Book," published annually
by Citizens Against Government Waste, is a story of politics and pork,
written in red ink, exposing some of the pet projects the group says will
cost taxpayers $23 billion this fiscal year.
This year's edition is being released at a time when the nation's budget is $521 billion out of balance, the national debt is $7 trillion and rising, and Americans are getting ready to pay the piper with the annual tax deadline approaching.
The group releases the scathing new report on pork-barrel spending later today, but Good Morning America got a sneak preview of some of the projects included.
The Pig Book identifies 10,656 projects in this year's appropriations bills, worth a total of $22.9 billion.
"We don't have the money to do this, and whether we had it or we didn't have it, it's still a waste," said Thomas A. Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste.
Deficit-defying programs that Congress decided the nation just can't do without include $270,000 to Wisconsin for vital work on potato storage, another $270,000 to Montana, Texas and Wyoming for wool research and $238,000 for a South Carolina group promoting conservation and hunting of wild turkeys.
"The mentality is that pork-barrel spending will help members get re-elected, and taxpayers reinforce that because not enough of them say to their elected officials: 'Don't fund this through the federal government,' " Schatz said.
From Patriotism to Turkeys
Taxpayers will spend $1 million on a patriotism-for-kids project, part of which will go to a video that praises patriotic holidays. Another $2 million in federal tax funds will go to a Florida program encouraging kids to take up golf. Meanwhile, in Iowa farm country — known for corn and soybeans — something new will rise up: a rain forest. Federal funding will pay $50 million toward the cost of a 4.5-acre indoor rain forest that is part of the Iowa Environmental Project in Coralville. The federal portion is nearly a quarter of the full projected cost of $180 million.
"This is soaking the taxpayers to the tune of $50 million," Schatz said. "It is the poster child for pork this year."
According to the project's Web site, the indoor rain forest will help "a global understanding of how life works on Earth and how we can lead truly sustainable lifestyles in harmony with all of nature."
A Tropical Boondoggle?
Humorist Dave Barry recently wrote that the Iowa rain forest project proves Congress is "as trustworthy with money as a crack addict." Citizens Against Government Waste calls the project a tropical boondoggle that will soak taxpayers.
The project's chief administrator, David Oman, says the rain forest complex — which will also include an aquarium, a theater and outdoor trails — will create thousands of jobs.
"This will be the national environmental center for the United States," said Oman. "This project is a good investment. It will create a world-class environmental center, the only one like it in the U.S."
Before the rain forest can be built, toxic waste in the area will have to be cleaned up, and taxpaying businesses that stand in the way will be displaced to make way for the project. Some business owners are not happy.
"The people of Iowa don't like tax waste to start with, and to have it within our own boundaries is embarrassing to us," said Roger Duffery, a local business owner.
A Coralville resident also questioned the spending allocation.
"If they want to spend that money on a rain forest, they should actually spend it on a rain forest," said resident Dorothy Lewis.
The final irony in Iowa — the No. 1 pork-producing state in the nation — is that while American taxpayers are kicking in $50 million for the Iowa rain forest, Iowa taxpayers have not kicked in a dime.
"The state commitment is still being worked on," Oman said. He acknowledged that the Iowa taxpayer contribution is "zero, to date."
To learn more about the report, go to Citizens Against Government Waste: http://www.cagw.org/site/PageServer.
For details on the rainforest project, go to the Iowa Environmental/Education Project: http://www.iowachild.org/.
singles out rain forest:
Coralville project tops "Pig Book"
By Mike Madden
Gannett News Service
Iowa City Press-Citizen
April 8, 2004
WASHINGTON - A $50 million grant to help build an indoor rain forest in Coralville tops the "Pig Book," an annual list of wasteful government spending released Wednesday by a nonpartisan watchdog group.
The money, secured by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, as Congress debated a massive spending bill in January, will go to the Iowa Environmental/Education Project. The plan calls for a 4.5-acre rain forest, an aquarium, and a recreated prairie and wetlands on a 30-acre site southeast of Interstate 80 and First Avenue.
While supporters of the $180 million project say it will draw tourists and help teach people about the environment, critics like Citizens Against Government Waste have called it an egregious example of government pork. They say it is wasteful spending that becomes law because members of Congress want it, not because it serves any important public purpose.
"Republicans and Democrats alike have shown a total disregard for the $521 billion deficit and $7.1 trillion debt, and by doing so, a lack of respect for taxpayers," said Thomas Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. "The money in the U.S. Treasury belongs to all Americans, not elected officials who want to use it to pay for parochial projects in an effort to bolster their re-election campaigns."
The group gave Grassley a sarcastic "Soaking the Taxpayers Award" for his tenacious pursuit of the money. The senator defended the project, saying it would help spur economic development by drawing up to 1.5 million tourists a year to the Iowa City area. Project organizers said the citizens group never contacted them to learn about the plan.
Instead, Schatz got on "Good Morning America" and labeled the proposal "the poster child for pork." The national broadcast reached into the homes of potential donors at a critical fund-raising time. Iowa meatpacking heir and project founder Ted Townsend is the sole benefactor, thus far, having pledged $10 million of his own fortune toward the cost.
Project chief administrator David Oman called the "Pig Book" and subsequent media coverage simply "a nuisance."
"I choose to focus on the positives," he said, though labeling "Good Morning America" correspondent Greg Hunter "smarmy" and his report "formula driven, pretty obvious stuff." "The individuals in companies or individuals, per se, with whom we're talking don't make their judgements based on a 2-minute, one-sided story on 'Good Morning America.' They push harder and have very focused questions on planning and performance."
The rain forest has been controversial since the proposal landed in Coralville in December 2000. It was all but forgotten, however, until Grassley - who is up for re-election in November - tried to put money for it into an energy bill last year. The rain forest wound up getting bounced from the measure, but the bill later got stuck in partisan wrangling. So Grassley tucked the $50 million into a different piece of legislation, signed into law in January, that pays for about half of the government's operations this year.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and others blasted the project all through the debate on the spending bill, but Grassley was able to keep it in the legislation anyway.
"With this nonprofit rain forest project, the federal dollars are a fraction of the total cost of the project," Grassley said.
Rain forest officials lashed back at the Pig Book.
"Their criticism is short-sighted, inaccurate and misinformed," said former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray, a Republican and chairman of the rain forest's board of directors.
The rain forest has gotten more attention and ridicule than many other projects listed in the pork report, but watchdog groups said other members of Congress were also at fault. The Pig Book highlighted a total of $22.9 billion in spending it called wasteful including a $2.2 million grant for North Pole, Alaska, home of only 1,570 residents; $500,000 for buses to ferry tourists around Anaheim, Calif., where Disneyland is located; and $200,000 for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
Press-Citizen reporter Brian Sharp contributed to this story.