The 13 Most Absurd Pork Barrel Spending Projects of 2010

By Casey Scudder
August 13, 2010

In 2009, millions in tax-payer dollars went to tattoo removal programs, peanut research and water taxi services on Pleasure Beach.

So who got millions in 2010?

Early in his presidency, President Obama publicly urged Congress to cut wasteful spending. But by March 2009, Congress had presented him with a $410 billion stimulus bill that included $7.7 billion in pork -- and he signed it. 

So what qualifies as pork spending? Also called earmarks, this type of spending is inserted into generally non-related bills as either an award or incentive for political support from constituents and cohorts. The Oxford English Dictionary distinguishes pork barrel spending from normal appropriation spending as "projects designed to please... and win votes." The term predates the Civil War, when barrels of salt pork were given as rewards for good behavior. The Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) has seven criteria for an item to be categorized as pork. The project must fall into one of these categories:

  • Requested by only one chamber of Congress;

  • Not specifically authorized;

  • Not competitively awarded;

  • Not requested by the President;

  • Greatly exceeds the President’s budget request or the previous year’s funding;

  • Not the subject of congressional hearings; or

  • Serves only a local or special interest.

There is some good news for 2010. According to CAGW, pork barrel spending is down. There was a -10% drop in total earmarks and a -15% decrease in total dollars spent on pork compared to the prior year. Despite the drop, CAGW still identified over 9,000 pork projects costing $16.5 billion.

Without further ado, here are the 13 most absurd earmarks to receive a chunk of the $16.5 billion.

Please note that these are not necessarily the most expensive pieces of pork barrel spending. Anonymous projects represent more than 50% of the cost of earmarks -- $6 billion was allocated to 35 anonymous projects in the Defense Appropriations Act alone.

Anonymous, in pork jargon, means that no one claimed sponsorship or authorship. This way, personal responsibility may be eluded. That's $6 billion allotted to reward constituents, but no one to publicly announce a gracious, "Thank you for your support. Please enjoy this cash."

Understand you may always contact your representative to tell them how you feel about the way they spend your tax dollars. You can find out who represents you here.

To learn more about Citizens Against Government Waste, visit their website here.

If you're still in the mood for government largess, click here to check out one of our most popular articles, The Five Wealthiest Members of Congress.