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Report: Pomeroy leads House in earmark spending

Is Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., the king of pork? His earmark spending has earned him that title in the U.S. House of Representatives this year, according to a new report.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy
Earl Pomeroy

Is Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., the king of pork? His earmark spending has earned him that title in the U.S. House of Representatives this year, according to a new report.

But Pomeroy said his so-called pork barrel spending -- $148.4 million on 50 projects as determined by government watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste -- brought vital funding for energy research, roads and defense projects to the state.

"I'm North Dakota's representative in the House, and I fight every day to make sure we get fair treatment when it comes to important priorities in North Dakota," he said. "They call that pork; I call it doing my job."

The watchdog group released its annual "Congressional Pig Book" on Wednesday that outlined earmark spending for the 2010 fiscal year, which will end Sept. 30. These earmarked projects get federal funding but don't go through the regular spending processes that competitively award money.

Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, came in a close second place in House earmarks with 62 projects adding up to $147.8 million.

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Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, was the No. 1 Senate earmark recipient for a third year in a row. He was credited with 240 projects that totaled $490.2 million.

North Dakota ranked second in the nation for its earmarks per capita -- $197.49, or nearly eight times the national average of $27.36 per person. Projects in the state totaled $127.7 million.

'Priorities'

Pomeroy said the "Pig Book" doesn't take into account important considerations -- especially that he is one of only seven House members (out of 435) that represent an entire state, not just a district.

"Of those seven, I expect I'm the only one that represents two Air Force bases, more roads per capita than any other state, a significant region that is now threatened by annual flooding and a federal research capacity that has developed in the last 10 years with the Red River Valley Research Corridor," he said.

Pomeroy said he makes "no apologies" for fighting to get funding for North Dakota's priorities, such as $12 million for Grand Forks Air Force Base to consolidate and replace outdated security forces facilities and improve security operations.

That was something already scheduled to get federal funding, but Pomeroy said they were able to get it funded this year -- meaning it became an earmark rather than a regular federal project.

Other big projects include $2.4 million toward replacing and relocating the Grand Forks International Airport terminal, $6.4 million to fund the Center for UAS Research, Education and Training and $7 million for the Center for Biomass Utilization at UND's Energy and Environmental Research Center.

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Pomeroy said necessary projects, including funding Grand Forks' Human Nutrition Research Center or securing federal money for flood protection efforts, are considered pork barrel spending by this group.

"This group believes it's wrong for members to fight to get the resources their districts need," Pomeroy said. "I believe that my job is to make sure that North Dakota gets its priorities funded."

Johnson reports on local politics. Reach him at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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