Walter Pierce

Landrieu, Vitter earn ire of watchdog group

by Walter Pierce

Is it only pork when it’s in someone else’s district?

Louisiana ranks eighth in the nation among states receiving earmark funding in the $410 billion 2009 Omnibus Spending Bill approved by Congress, according to an updated tally released Tuesday by fiscal watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. In the bill TCS identifies $7.7 billion in earmarks — spending provisions inserted by individual members of Congress — and U.S. Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter were among the biggest spenders.

The state’s total take, according to TCS, is just under $233 million dollars for 192 earmark projects. The group ranks Landrieu third and Vitter fifth among senators inserting earmarks, although some of those spending measures were co-sponsored by the pair.

TCS contends many if not most of the earmarks are wasteful. But Vitter has defended them, pointing to funding for hurricane recovery and law enforcement. Vitter’s GOP colleague and party standard bearer Sen. John McCain of Arizona questioned a $6.6 million earmark to battle Formosan termites, which are chewing their way through thousands of wood-frame houses mainly in the New Orleans area.

Louisiana was second to Mississippi in an earmark tally released earlier this week by TCS. But late runs at the money by California, Texas, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania pushed us down the list. Mississippi still ranks third. Alabama comes it at seventh.

Per capita earmark spending, according to the TCS ranking, puts Louisiana in 11th place with $52.78 spent for each of our 4.4 million residents. Ironically, Alaska tops this list with $209.71 spent per resident (686,293 total population); ironic because Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain’s running mate last year, is the namesake for a national organization that staged demonstrations across the country March 7, including here in Lafayette, to protest wasteful federal spending in the stimulus bill.