Questions of financial conflict cloud watchdog group's big day
Prominent watchdog denies that lobbying activities affects the "Pig Book,' an annual list of wastful government spending programs.
By ANITA KUMAR
Published April 5, 2006
WASHINGTON - Longtime congressional supporters of Citizens Against Government Waste said Wednesday that they did not know the watchdog group accepts money from companies and trade associations and then lobbies on their behalf.
"All I can tell you is that for 15 years I have dealt with CAGW I have never detected anything but the most careful scrutiny of projects and programs and earmarking that I have found incredibly useful," said Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain. "I have never seen anything but that, and I have dealt with them very closely for many years."
McCain's defense of CAGW came at the group's annual news conference unveiling its Pig Book of wasteful programs.
The St. Petersburg Times reported Sunday that CAGW has traded on its watchdog reputation by taking donations from avocado growers, health clubs and tobacco companies, among other groups, and then conducting public relations and lobbying campaigns for them.
Tom Schatz, CAGW's president, thanked CAGW's members and supporters Wednesday but denied that the Pig Book - released each year amid much fanfare - is based on contributions.
"If the projects qualifies, it qualifies. It's as simple as that," Schatz said. "We've identified projects and every single one of them has gone through the same criteria. If you're in there, you're in there."
The 2006 edition identifies 9,963 pork projects at cost of $29-billion, a 6.2 percent rise over last year. Projects include $500,000 for a teapot museum in North Carolina, $500,000 for the Arctic Winter Games in Alaska and $100,000 for a boxing club in Nevada.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, said that his staff reviews lawmakers' pet projects each year and that if any contributions to CAGW affected the Pig Book his office would know.
"I have not heard of that," Coburn said. "I don't know about that."
Other members of Congress, including Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, and Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, were scheduled to attend the news conference but canceled at the last minute.
[Last modified April 5, 2006, 22:35:03]
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