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Pesky earmarks still in eye of budget storm

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Some critics see this issue as a rallying cry for a battered Republican Party to win back the House and Senate, but they’ve got a problem: Republicans are nearly as successful in bringing home the bacon for their constituents as Democrats – and in no mood to change the practice. GOP senators account for six of the top 10 sponsors of earmarks, according to the Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Few issues in public life lend themselves so well to attack ads, especially in hard economic times. Here’s the formula: Pick a silly-sounding earmark – or give one a great name, such as “Bridge to Nowhere” – then remind voters that while they struggle, members of Congress are wasting money or (worse) angling for bribes.

“I ask the senator from Hawaii [Sen. Daniel Inouye (D), who chairs the Appropriations Committee]: Why do we need to spend $2 million to promote astronomy in Hawaii when unemployment is going up and the stock market is tanking? Do we really need to continue this wasteful process?” McCain asked his colleague.

McCain, the longest-serving earmark opponent in the Senate, also noted: $1.7 million in the bill for pig odor research in Iowa; $6.6 million for termite research in New Orleans; $2.1 million for the Center for Grape Genetics in New York; $1.7 million for a honeybee factory in Weslaco, Texas; $143,000 for an online encyclopedia in Nevada; $150,000 for a rodeo museum in South Dakota; $238,000 for the Alaska PTA, and $333,000 for a school sidewalk in Franklin, Texas.

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