Senator's Web site fries Congress' pork projects

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) a foe of pork-barrel politics has created a World Wide Web page that does everything but oink.

As Congress winds down this appropriations season McCain has enlisted a Java-applet-powered pig as the newest tool in his more than a decade-long battle against pork-barrel politics. Unlike congressional pork which is usually buried in legislative boilerplate language it is hard to miss the pig on McCain's Web site (www.senate.gov/~mccain).

Once into McCain's somewhat humdrum home page which is decorated with a Southwest Sun click on the "Pork Barrel Politics" button below his greeting and up pops the pig banner. A clickable list of "FY 1998 Appropriations and Pork Listings" appears underneath the banner and a quick read of any of these will guarantee anything from a smirk to a hearty laugh.

McCain has deduced that humor is the best way to fight the pork that members of Congress take so seriously and a quick scan of the items on the "Pork Barreling" list shows McCain as an equal-opportunity lampooner zinging Republican pet projects with the same barbs directed at Democrats.

For example looking at the $7 million in funding for the Center of Excellence for Research in Ocean Sciences - an earmark traceable to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) - McCain commented that this appropriation was crafted to eliminate "any risk of funds being spent for a center of mediocrity for research in ocean sciences."

That's not the only Center for Excellence McCain skewers on his Web site. He said Congress has a penchant to establish "centers for the study of virtually every subject " including $22 million for the East-West center in Hawaii and another $3 million for the North/South Center in Florida. If this center proliferation continues McCain said "I would not at all be surprised to see in next year's bill funding for a North-by-Northwest Center perhaps to include a banquet room honoring the late Alfred Hitchcock."

Considering a tax credit granted Amtrak - backed by a coalition of Northeastern Republicans and Democrats and hidden in the Balanced Budget and Taxpayer Relief acts - McCain commented "This scheme represents the greatest train robbery since the James Brothers retired."

Thanks to McCain and his Web site taxpayers now can easily gain insight into how Congress brings home the bacon. The Transportation appropriations bill contains at least $10 billion in pork by McCain's estimates. Much of this is spent on bridges highways and other transportation necessities. In the 1998 bill Congress allocated $2 million to restore a covered bridge in Vermont.

McCain would probably be the first to admit that his relentless anti-pork crusade has little effect on his colleagues. But this Web site offers taxpayers some value for their squandered money: a good laugh.

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