A Prime Porkster on Fiscal Responsibility


Pete Domenici’s recent op-ed in the Albuquerque Journal contained the scary fact that by “2035, publicly held debt will surpass the all-time high of 106 percent of gross domestic product … that it reached during World War II.”

But the retired pol‘s alarm over the country’s fiscal health is more than a little curious. In three and a half decades in the U.S. Senate, he did everything possible to “bring home the bacon.”

The taxpayer-watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste repeatedly hit Domenici for his profligacy. In September 1999, the organization named him “Porker of the Month” for his “sudden about face” on surplus Social Security revenue, which would leave “the funds exposed and ripe for the pickings of lawmakers hungry for pork projects in their own states and districts.”

A year later, CAGW dinged Domenici for his lame claim that a $200,000 subsidy to the Las Cruces Railroad Museum “could improve transportation for the entire nation.”

Domenici was a serial offender in CAGW’s “Congressional Pig Book,” an annual examination that tracks federal expenditures that are requested by only one senator or representative, not requested by the executive branch, not competitively awarded, not explored in a congressional hearing, and benefit “only a local or special interest.” Among many, many other grants, the senator secured:

* in 1993, $3.1 million for the federal courthouse in Albuquerque

* in 1997, $10 million for an advanced laser research facility at Kirtland Air Force Base

* in 1998, $5.5 million for the National Hispanic Cultural Center

* in 2000, $1 million “for Columbus-port-of-entry realignment,” even though “New Mexico Secretary of Transportation Pete Rahn tried to reject the funding because he did not want the state to be liable for 25 percent of the cost of this unnecessary project”

* in 2001, $2 million for a “science and technology facility” at New Mexico Highlands University

* in 2002, $1 million for “infrastructure improvements and to build a multipurpose event center at the Southern New Mexico Fair and Rodeo

The federal budget is a disaster — all rational Americans share Domenici’s concerns. But the former fedpol is a little late to the party on “our fiscal challenges.” Maybe if he hadn’t spent much of his career making the Land of Enchantment desperately dependent on federal largesse, the nation’s finances wouldn’t be in quite so rough shape.