Watchdog group finds $12 billion of pork in defense legislation

From stainless steel bathrooms to high-intensity flashlights to parade field renovations, the $417.5 billion fiscal 2005 Defense appropriations bill ran the gamut with 2,671 earmarks totaling $12.2 billion, according to an exhaustive seven-month investigation by Taxpayers for Common Sense.

The budget watchdog group claims its report is the most comprehensive inspection ever of a Defense appropriations bill, identifying the home state or district that 86 percent of the well-hidden earmarks would benefit.

Naturally, the largest percentage of the spoils went to congressional leaders and members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, the group found. House leaders, for their part, averaged $416 million in earmarks for their constituents while House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis -- the former Defense Appropriations Subcommittee chairman -- helped to bring home almost $1 billion in fiscal 2005 to California, the report found, although only about $28 a head in his densely populated state.

In the House, Washington state received the most per person in defense funds at $57.91 a head, thanks to the presence of former Rep. George Nethercutt, a Republican, and Democratic Rep. Norm Dicks on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

Members of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee received 65 percent of all Senate earmarks. Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, led the way with $694.45 per person, for a total of $434.5 million, followed by Defense Appropriations ranking member Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, with $382.84 per person in his state and $463.8 million total. Next is Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., at $209.03 per capita and $594.6 million total.

Stevens, who has led the way for years in earmarks for his home state and has become an industry unto himself for his constituents, was naturally unapologetic about his fiscal 2005 largess, which includes $4.3 million for vocational training for Alaskan miners and $1 million to restore Woody Island historic structures.

"That's the first time anyone called defense spending 'pork,'" Stevens said through a spokeswoman. "Our defense installations are for national and not just Alaska defense, and our men and women in Alaska in uniform are there to defend the United States. They can call it 'pork' all they want. I call it financing for muscle."