Thursday, April 15, 2010

Roundhouse Roundup: The Other White Meat

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
April 15, 2010

New Mexico is becoming less swinish, according to a national report released Wednesday.

According to the 2010 Pig Book, published by the Washington, D.C.-based Citizens Against Government Waste, this state no longer is in the Top 10 states in terms of pork — government earmark spending — per capita.

We slipped from No. 6 to No 12.

The Pig Book each year delights in pointing out what it considers outrageous examples of federal pork spending — $2.5 million for potato research in four states, $500,000 for brown tree snake control and interdiction in Guam, $693,000 for beef improvement research in Texas.

But though New Mexico is no stranger to ridicule in the Pig Book in past years, no earmark project made the list in the 2010 book.

However, it's not that all our bacon has turned to tofu. New Mexico still gets $56.97 of federal pork for every man, woman and child in the state, the authors say. That's more than twice the national average of $27.36.

But why did New Mexico slip in terms of pork power?

David Williams, vice president of policy for CAGW, said the major reason is that the state lost longtime U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici — who Williams said was "unabashed about getting pork" — as well as all three incumbent House members in the last election. (Tom Udall last year went from the House to replace the retired Domenici in the Senate.)

"When it comes to pork, it comes down to who's been in Congress longer and who's on the appropriations committees," Williams said in a telephone interview.

He pointed out that Alaska lost Sen. Ted Stevens — notorious for his bacon bringing — in the 2008 election and slipped down three notches in the pork-per-capita rankings from first place to fourth.

"That's one of the biggest problems with pork," Williams said. "The money is not evenly distributed. Is it really fair to a state like New Mexico that you get less money just because you lost members of your congressional delegation?"

Williams said the number of pork projects declined by 10.2 percent, from 10,160 in fiscal year 2009 to 9,129 in this fiscal year, while the total tax dollars spent to fund them decreased by 15.5 percent, from $19.6 billion to $16.5 billion.

Altogether, New Mexico's delegation secured $114,499,540 in federal earmark funds in 2010. The previous year's total was more than $266 million.

"One thing that's happening is that there are diminishing political returns for bringing home the bacon," Williams said. Noting transparency rules that the House implemented last year, Williams said, "There's a lot more sunlight in the system."

Fun with campaign finance reports: Could this be the Republican version of the old Marxist line about capitalists selling the rope that the revolutionaries will use to hang them with?

According to his latest campaign finance report, filed this week, former state Rep. Brian Moore, a Clayton Republican running for lieutenant governor, spent $311 on calling cards printed at Alphagraphics in Albuquerque last October.

Moore confirmed that this is the same Alphagraphics owned and operated by state Sen. Kent Cravens, R-Albuquerque. About a month later, Cravens himself jumped into the lieutenant governor's race.

State Sen. Tim Eichenberg, D-Albuquerque, was among several Democratic senators who endorsed fellow Albuquerque senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino for lieutenant governor, according to a news release last week from Ortiz y Pino's campaign. Eichenberg put his money where his mouth is, contributing $500 to Ortiz y Pino's campaign.

But that's not the only senator to whom Eichenberg contributed. Sen. Linda Lopez, another Albuquerque Democrat running for lieutenant governor, also got $500 from Eichenberg.