'Earmarks' continue to stir outrage

| 11/27/2006

A U.S. Senator who was one of the most vocal critics of Alaska's so-called "bridge to nowhere" has asked the U.S. Department of Transportation to do a thorough review of congressional "earmarks."

Traditionally referred to as "pork," earmarked describes line item spending that appears most commonly, but not exclusively, in funding bills passed by Congress.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, wants the DOT to come up with a list of the total number - and cost - of earmarks, as well as an assessment of their impact on the department's transportation goals. It's complicated, but reports place that number anywhere between 5,200 and 6,500 different earmarks, amounting to as much as $24 billion.

Many in Congress were outraged last year when $223 million in federal transportation funds were earmarked for a bridge from the Alaskan mainland to the tiny island of Gravina, which has 50 inhabitants. Coburn and others have pressed for what the media has tagged a shutdown of the "favor factory."

John Hart, communications director for Coburn, told "Land Line Now" that project as one that robs taxpayer dollars from other, more pressing needs.

"There are bridges that are crumbling all over the country," said Hart. "Every dollar that we divert to a bridge to nowhere, or a bridge that might connect someone's private property to their state or another entity that they have an interest in, is a dollar that can't fix a bridge that's about to fall over."

Hart said Coburn plans to get reports on earmarks from all departments of government, not just transportation.

- By Reed Black, staff writer