Pork barrel spending

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Pork barrel spending is the act of using federal government funds on local projects that are primarily used to bring more money to a specific representative's district. The politician spends money to benefit his or her constituents in return for their support or vote. Pork barrel projects most commonly take the form of public works projects and agricultural subsidies.[1]

Criteria for "pork"

In 1991, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Congressional Porkbusters Coalition developed seven criteria for a project to qualify as pork:

  • 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.[2]


Big Dig

One of the most famous examples of pork-barrel spending was the "Big Dig" in Boston, Massachusetts. This was a project to relocate a 3.5-mile section of highway underground. Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill (D-MA) pushed to have the project funded by the federal government. Planning for the project began in 1982, but it was not completed until 2007. The Big Dig ended up costing $14.6 billion to complete but was only initially estimated to cost $2.8 billion.[3]

Bridge to Nowhere

The Gravina Island Bridge, more commonly known as the "Bridge to Nowhere," was a proposed bridge to replace the ferry connecting the town of Ketchikan, Alaska, with Gravina Island, an island that houses the Ketchikan International Airport and roughly 50 residents. The bridge would have cost $398 million and was opposed by many outside Alaska as a symbol of pork barrel spending.[4]

The bridge was primarily advocated for by Rep. Don Young and Sen. Ted Stevens in 2005 and 2006. It was never constructed but received renewed national attention in 2008 as a campaign issue in the presidential race.[4]

See also

Ballotpedia:Index of Terms

External links