Tags: jeff flake | jurassic pork | earmarks | government | waste

Sen. Flake's 'Jurassic Pork' Spotlights Earmarks That Refuse to Die

Image: Sen. Flake's 'Jurassic Pork' Spotlights Earmarks That Refuse to Die
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 11 Jun 2015 02:17 PM

Sen. Jeff Flake released a video, "Jurassic Pork," for a funny look at the serious issues of old earmarks and to spotlight a bill he's introducing to return the money into the nation's treasury or highway funds.

He hopes to "claw the money back" that's held up in aging legislation.

Story continues below video.

"Congressional earmarks have been stopped, but there are a lot of members trying to bring them back," the Arizona Republican told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" on Thursday.

"That is the bad news. And we are pointing out that these earmarks were not just bad when [they] were appropriated or the money is allocated for them."

Flake's office has put out a report, in addition to the video, to highlight just a few of the earmarks "that continue on, and talking about this practice and why we cannot bring it back."

Many of the earmarks are in transportation, said Flake, including "the 'Bridge to Nowhere,'" which was part of the 2005 transportation bill.

"There were 7,500 earmarks in that," he said. "In a lot of those, the money was never spent because the local entity couldn't come up with matching funds or didn't want to."

But rather than the money reverting back automatically after a certain period of time, it stays protected, and "that money is there until we pass legislation to move the orphan earmarks back into the treasury and specifically here into the trust fund."

There are some people, though, who want to regain the right to do earmarks, said Flake, including former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Flake quoted Reid as having said: "I have been earmarking my whole life and ... it's a practice that should continue."

Such pork helps pass legislation, he said, but "boy it isn't worth it. As Tom Coburn used to say, earmarks are the gateway drug to spending addiction."

In 2006, before the ban, 16,000 earmarks were spread across appropriation bills, worth about $30 billion, Flake said, "and that isn't even a partial cost of the earmarks, because they leverage so more spending."

Flake further detailed the issue in a column Thursday for The Daily Caller, giving some of the more egregious instances.

In one of them, back in 1986, a Pennsylvania Republican congressman slipped an earmark into a funding bill that turned a small exhibit of steam-powered trains into "Steamtown USA," a national park, and 30 years and $100 million later, the project still costs taxpayers millions annually, Flake said.

"The 'Bridge to Nowhere,' the North Carolina teapot museum, the indoor rainforest in Iowa, and yes, Steamtown USA, were among the many egregious earmarks that led fed-up taxpayers to press for a ban on such spending," he wrote. "Like triceratops and velociraptors, earmarks were declared extinct, fossilized relics of a bygone era."

He said in his column that he hopes his report, "Jurassic Pork," serves as "a reminder of the past scandals that brought about the extinction of earmarks, and as a warning that the cost of earmarking often long outlives the practice itself.

"There are the 6,000 unspent highway earmarks representing $5.9 billion that sit idle in a Department of Transportation account," Flake said. "According to the Congressional Research Service, 70 earmarks worth more than $120 million remain on the books. In August 2015, more than 1,200 earmarks from the last major highway bill will officially hit 'orphan' status, representing $2 billion in yet-to-be spent funds."

However, he insisted that tax dollars "don't exist for political horse trading, nor as a reward for powerful members to dole out as tribute. Taxpayers should remain vigilant against these types of pleas for parochial spending and a return to pork as we knew it."

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Sen. Jeff Flake released a video, "Jurassic Pork" for a funny look at the serious issues of old earmarks and to spotlight a bill he's introducing to return the money into the nation's treasury or highway funds.
jeff flake, jurassic pork, earmarks, government, waste
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2015-17-11
Thursday, 11 Jun 2015 02:17 PM
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