Texas lawmakers asked for $5.5 billion in earmarked projects, state ranks 40th in requested pork per-capita


It is rare, indeed, for U.S. Rep. Ron Paul to to keep company on any list alongside Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and censured Rep. Charles Rangel, D-NY. Rarer still to be thought of as a hooligan.

And yet there he is, the Tea Party patriarch, on a list made up of 253 Democrats and six Republicans who have been branded House Hooligans for requesting billions of dollars for designated projects, money affectionately referred to as earmarks. The list is part of a remarkable database unveiled today by Taxpayers Against Earmarks, Taxpayers for Common Sense and WashingtonWatch.com.

The database, with lots of interactive doohickeys and gizmos, shows senators and representatives asked for 39,293 earmarks worth almost $131 billion in this current fiscal year. An interactive map allows you to search for 2011 earmark requests state by state and Congressional district.

Texas acquits itself rather well if you happen to find the scramble to hoard American tax dollars as distasteful as the image of a farmer carving a notch in the ears of his pigs to show he owns them. Texas lawmakers asked for $5.5 billion in earmarked projects, putting the state 40th in the amount of pork requested per capita.

A story today by Politico about the new database is quick to point out that the $131 billion is money requested by legislators, not the money those legislators eventually get when all the lawmaking dust has settled. This past year, lawmakers were able to direct $16.5 billion in hard-earned tax money to their districts, millions and millions of it for projects of questionable importance, such as goat and botanical research and the health behaviors of the people of Kelly,Texas.

What the database establishes clearly is how cleanly the culture of earmark currying has divided itself by political party. The study considers Heroes those lawmakers who have sworn to forego earmarks in the coming fiscal year. These include 173 House Republicans, 19 of them from Texas and just five Democrats, and 31 Republican Senators, including Kay Bailey Hutchison, who swears her days of 119 earmark requests valued at $771 million last year are behind her, and just six Democrats.

The Hooligan column is populated with 253 Democratic House members, including Pelosi, Rangel and 11 members from Texas, and 51 Democratic senators. Ten Republican senators and two Independent senators are Hooligans as well as six Republican House members, including Paul. Paul is unapologetic in his request for 51 earmarks totaling $358 million.

Paul is not, by number of earmarks or dollar value, the biggest hooligan in Texas. That dubious distinction is held by Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, who has made requests for 94 earmarks valued at $783.9 million.

“This data reinforces that Congress needs to pause and think about better ways to allocate our precious taxpayer dollars,” Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, told Politico.

Contact Mark Lisheron at mark@texaswatchdog.org or 512-299-2318.

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Photo of a pig by flickr user Benimoto, used via a Creative Commons license.