Canton Repository

April 12, 2006

Regula defends projects on list of federal ‘pork’

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON - As he has in the past, Rep. Ralph Regula is defending federal spending projects he has secured for his congressional district despite their inclusion in a government watchdog group’s annual Congressional Pig Book.

Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, derided Citizens Against Government Waste, the author of the book, as a “bunch of hypocrites” for criticizing earmarks while engaging in its own lobbying activities.

He called it a “conflict of interest.”

The group has come under fire recently following revelations that it conducted public relations and lobbying campaigns for clients including avocado growers, health clubs and tobacco companies. The organization denied that donations have any influence on which projects are listed in the book.

Among 9,963 congressionally earmarked projects that it labels wasteful pork, the Pig Book highlights several projects initiated by Regula.

These include $750,000 to help pay for the construction of a recreation center in Plain Township on land owned by First Christian Church of Canton.

“I don’t make any apologies for that project,” Regula said. “It’s basically the equivalent of a YMCA for Plain Township and they don’t have anything like that.”

The Pig Book also mentioned Regula’s $400,000 earmark to pay for a library at the Navarre YMCA, $300,000 for industrial park-related road construction in Ashland County and $250,000 to purchase land for a park near the Akron-Canton Regional Airport.

Regula defended all the spending as beneficial to communities in his district. But he denied knowledge of a $179,000 earmark for hydroponic tomato production research in his heavily agricultural district. Hydroponic tomatoes are grown without soil.

“I didn’t even know about that” project, he said. “I haven’t had a chance to follow-up.”

Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonprofit organization, publicizes earmarks every year in an effort to reduce wasteful spending. The group said pork rose to $29 billion in 2006, up from $27.3 billion the year before.

The group defines pork as spending that was not asked for by the president, was not authorized by a congressional committee and is not competitively awarded, to mention just a few criteria.

Regula has long argued that, as a congressman, he is more finely attuned to the needs of his district than federal agencies, congressional authorizing committees or the president.

“What makes the authorizing committee have knowledge of the 16th District?” he asked.

“These are phony issues,” he added. “They don’t like earmarks. They don’t like members having the ability to get something accomplished in their district. And they love that little Pig Book.”