Fiscal hawks slam ‘worst’ 2024 earmarks from both parties totaling $22B in spending

Government watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) released the fiscal year 2024 edition of their “Pig Book” on Wednesday, chronicling what they considered the worst pork barrel spending offenders of the year.

At the announcement, held just off Capitol Hill, several anti-earmark lawmakers also offered reaction and analysis to CAGW President Tom Schatz’s proverbial lowlights of government spending.

Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., a member of the House Budget Committee, characterized earmarks as lawmakers’ act of “robbing St. Petersburg to pay St. Paul – for projects that St. Petersburg doesn’t benefit from and St. Paul doesn’t seem worthy enough to spend its own money on.”

“When a local government proposes an earmark, what does it say? It’s saying that the project is so low on its priority list it doesn’t dare spend their own taxpayers’ money — But, they’re perfectly happy to have taxpayers in other communities foot the bill for them,” McClintock said.

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McClintock claimed that the current interest payments on the U.S. national debt now exceed the Pentagon’s defense spending for the first time in history.

“And history warns us that countries that bankrupt themselves aren’t around very long,” he said.

Schatz highlighted several findings by his team at CAGW, including a total of 8,222 earmarks in the past fiscal year, costing a combined $22.7 billion. That total was 11% more than FY 2023 but with a slightly lower “pork” price tag. He said interests in Alaska, Maine, Hawaii, the Northern Marianas Islands territory and West Virginia received the top five most earmarks in descending order.

One of the largest earmarks criticized by Schatz and others at the conference was a $1.75 million appropriation for “public plaza security upgrades” at the MET – the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City – which CAGW found to have $5 billion in assets as of 2023.

He called out New York Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand for spearheading the effort, awarding them the “You Cannot Be Serious Award.”

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Google Street View)

Fox News Digital reached out to both senators for response to the moniker.

Evan Lukaske, a spokesman for Gillibrand, responded by defending the expenditure, as well as the MET, calling it a “jewel of New York and the globe.”

“[G]iven its status as the most visited museum in the United States and fourth-most visited art museum in the world, Senator Gillibrand was proud to deliver funding to enhance its security for its more than five million annual visitors,” Lukaske said.

At the conference, Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., another anti-earmark lawmaker, said every dollar spent by Congress has an advocate for it.

“That’s why it’s so tough to deal with the dollars that are going out,” he said. “The good news is, I think people are waking up.”

A $17.5 million earmark for the Eisenhower Presidential Library was criticized by Norman, who also called out $36 million in earmarks to combat “underwater pests.”

Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., offered criticism of his own party, claiming 99% of Democrats and 60% of Republicans requested to receive earmarks in FY 2024.

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Good questioned whether the GOP can therefore retain its nickname as the “Party of Fiscal Responsibility.”

“We’re in an unprecedented era of debt to GDP [ratio] that we haven’t seen since World War II. We didn’t just defeat Nazi Germany or imperialist Japan to accumulate that debt. We have absolutely nothing to show for it: Nothing to celebrate and memorialize in terms of saving the world as that Greatest Generation did,” Good said.

He added that, unlike at present, the federal government quickly paid off its war debt while the current leadership in both parties has failed to do so for much less net gain.

“Make no mistake about it, earmarks are used to buy bad votes for bad bills. Earmarks are used to incentivize and reward bad folks for bad bills,” Good said.

The Lynchburg lawmaker said it is therefore no wonder that Congress continues to flounder below 20% in its nationwide approval rating.

Other earmarks shared by CAGW in their “Pig Book” included broadband internet-related appropriations by members of both parties. The organization argued there is “no reason to earmark a penny” of funding for broadband expansion because there are numerous extant federal programs that deploy access to the internet for underserved communities.

Earmarks for the Sugarcane Research Unit in Louisiana – 97 earmarks totaling $140 million for funding NOAA operations and research, and several appropriations directed at collegiate studies and projects were among purported offenders listed in the “Pig Book.”

Charles Creitz is a reporter for Fox News Digital. 

He joined Fox News in 2013 as a writer and production assistant. 

Charles covers media, politics and culture for Fox News Digital.

Charles is a Pennsylvania native and graduated from Temple University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism. Story tips can be sent to [email protected].

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