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News and views on  the corporate swine who scarf down YOUR MONEY for THEIR PRIVATE GAIN.


The skinny...

Porkwatch.com is a  comprehensive and up-to-date resource for liberals, conservatives, and libertarians who oppose corporate welfare.

Corporate welfare is the forced redistribution of public dollars to targeted special interests.

This site monitors legislative attempts, regulatory schemes, and tax gimmicks sponsored by Big Government and Big Biz gluttons at the local, state, and federal levels.












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Pointing porky fingers: In Seattle, public officials blame owners of the Mariners baseball team for public stadium cost overruns.  The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports:

In a new report to state and local elected officials, the Public Facilities District said the field cost $517 million -- instead of the expected $417 million -- because the Mariners insisted on numerous design changes and an accelerated construction schedule that would boost team revenues. The stadium opened last July.

PFD Board Chairman Bob Wallace said the public agency issued the report to respond to what he called accusations by the Mariners "that are flat-out ridiculous and patently false" and that have "bordered on slanderous."

The latest volley of acrimony between the PFD and the ballclub is likely a prelude to litigation that the Mariners have been hinting at for months as they look for ways to recover the cost increases. The team previously -- and repeatedly -- promised to cover any and all costs above $417 million.

"Given that the issues recently raised by the club have no substantive merit, we question the Mariners' intent," the PFD report said. "They have been very clear about their interest to seek additional public funds to relieve them of their obligation for the approved budget increases....

Read the rest of the story.

Newsbrief: The Green Scissors coalition releases its annual report on environmentally harmful subsidies.

Pay for it yourself!: A Libertarian in Nebraska says no to convention center pork.  Andrew Sullivan, state Libertarian Party chairman, writes in the Omaha World-Herald:

"Proposals for an Omaha arena and convention center are off to a bad start. The idea may have merit, but the advocates for such a facility have little to offer. Some say the facility will help stimulate and grow the local economy and make Omaha competitive as well as fill a need. The proposal looks more like an effort to tax people than to help Nebraska grow.

So who should pay for this facility? Why not fund it solely through voluntary contributions and user fees? Memorial Stadium in Lincoln was built without any state funding.

Why must government have a role? Is it too much to ask that those who use a public facility pay for it? Mayor Daub apparently thinks so. He wants to add a dollar tax to hotel rooms. Hotels in the Omaha metro area already carry a tax burden of greater than 12 per cent, more than a travel agent makes on commission from booking a hotel reservation. Yet the seats tax, a user fee, for the proposed facility is only 50 cents. Should it not be more like a dollar?"

Read the rest of Sullivan's commentary here.

Greasing the blades: The Washington Post reports that our neighbors to the north will be handing out Canadian port to six hockey teams:

"The Canadian government announced today that it is prepared to provide up to $2 million to each of the country's six NHL franchises each year to ensure that they do not move to the United States.

Industry Minister John Manley said the subsidies are justified because some Canadian teams find themselves in a financial squeeze caused by the decreased value of the Canadian dollar, the smaller size of its urban markets and the generous tax breaks some American teams get from their host cities.

However, payment of federal money to any team is contingent upon contributions from the league, which have been arranged, and from its city and provincial governments, which are not assured...."

Read the rest of the story.

Newsbrief: The Associated Press reports that two men "in pink pig costumes and carrying a briefcase of play money emerged from a stretch limousine outside the site of Saturday's Republican presidential debate.

``I'm a Pentagon contractor,'' one said, a plastic cigar clenched between his teeth. The pigs, representatives of the anti-defense spending group Iowans for Sensible Priorities, said they were in town to protest Pentagon pork. ``We get money from the Pentagon and we give money back to the candidates,'' said one pig, who declined to identify himself. Someone from the group, planted in the crowd, then began singing ``Hail to the Pork,'' a parody set to the tune of the ``Hail to the Chief.''

Pork for the farms: That's the headline of today's lead Washington Post editorial, which takes on presidential campaign pandering and special subsidies for the ag industry:

Iowa's privileged position in the nation's political calendar has promoted some egregious pandering to the farm vote. In last month's Republican debate in Iowa, all candidates except Sen. John McCain fell over each other to promise federal help for farmers; Steve Forbes went so far as to blame the Federal Reserve for conspiring to undermine farm prices. Saturday's Democratic face-off was no more edifying. Al Gore bashed his opponent for opposing a range of farm supports. Bill Bradley protested that he was even more eager to cosset farms than was the vice president.

The dramatic high point of the debate came when Mr. Gore called upon a farmer in the audience to stand up, and then demanded to know why Mr. Bradley had voted against flood relief for him. Mr. Bradley seemed stuck for an answer at the time, but the next day he bounced back. "I voted for flood relief, I voted for disaster assistance. I just voted against that particular amendment," he pleaded. "You cannot have an economy booming if you can't also give family farmers some sense of security," he went on, before finally prostrating himself fully: "For the last seven years," he contended, "there's been zero help for family farmers from this administration."

The truth is that Mr. Bradley had perfectly sound reasons for voting against the amendment cited by Mr. Gore: It represented farm assistance more generous than seemed justified in a time of budget stringency. As well as standing up for his vote, Mr. Bradley could have used the debate question to reflect more broadly on relief for farms. The 1993 flood that prompted the contested amendment was a serious disaster that rightly triggered federal aid. But such aid carries the danger of encouraging farming in flood-prone areas. Neither Mr. Bradley nor Mr. Gore breathed a word of this dilemma...

Read the entire editorial.

Socrates has a field of dreams: An elderly Minnesotan named Socrates Babacas wants to build a totally privately-funded sports stadium for football and baseball. From Yahoo! News:

Speaking to a small crowd in Bloomington, Babacas produced a letter from Gov. Jesse Ventura saying, "You have my blessing; go for it." The two met last week.

"I know there are a lot of doubts, but it takes a Greek to show it can be done," Babacus said.

Babacas also said he and his partners have secured a purchase agreement on 370 acres of land near Lino Lakes. While he has no engineering plans or blueprints, he still wants to break ground June 1.

Several conceptual drawings were displayed.

The proposal is for a 70,000-seat, natural grass, domed stadium for football and baseball. The main point of the proposal, however, is the fact that taxpayers wouldn't have to spend anything for the new stadium, WCCO-TV reported.

"The theme of this project will be no cost to the taxpayers," he said. "The taxpayers are sick and tired of paying for private enterprise."

Amen to that.

Will it fly in Philly? The Philadelphia Daily News reports on new mayor John Street's negotiations with the Philadelphia Eagles for public stadium funding:

"...the city and the Eagles have come to terms on a tentative deal committing the team to finishing its practice facility in Philadelphia, but promising the city will buy the site for $23 million if a stadium deal isn't done by Nov. 3.

The proposed agreement means the Eagles have decided they can live with not getting a stadium deal done until this fall, and not opening play in their field of dreams until the 2003 season.

The developments, only two days into Street's term, show the stadium issue that vexed Ed Rendell's last weeks in office is one the new mayor cannot avoid.

The proposal also provides that if a stadium deal isn't done by November, the city commits to up to $80 million in improvements at Veterans Stadium over the next two years.

Get the whole story.

Ohio mall wars: Doug Zimmerman of Columbus attacks tax-increment financing schemes for mall developments. "It is this type of public policy from our misguided leaders that fuels social and environmental injustice..People are wising up to corporate welfare, tax abatements and fancy financing that help convert the millionaire power elite into the billionaire power elite."

Read Zimmerman's letter in the Columbus Dispatch.

Mortal Kombat machinations: The Chicago City Council is ready to fork over $2 million in public subsidies to the video game maker that produces Mortal Kombat. The Chicago Tribune reports:

Under its deal with Midway, headquartered at 3401 N. California Ave., the city will provide up to $2.2 million to help the firm cover a variety of expenses, including acquiring a parcel adjoining its site...The City Council approved the Midway agreement, without debate, on Dec. 15 after the council's Finance Committee advanced it earlier in the month.

Read the entire article.

Milking the taxpayer: Reason Magazine's Virginia Postrel writes about the California dairy lobby's anti-democratic protections:

"The California milk law represents just the sort of 'democracy' the increasingly vocal antitrade movement wants to protect: legislation that overrides consumer choice to protect interests with political clout."

Read the entire article.

Ethanol piggies strike back: Eric Vaughn, President of the Renewable Fuels Association, writes:

"Michelle Malkin's cynical conclusion ("Ethanol Is Common Denominator," Dec. 16 column) that political support for ethanol is mere election-year pandering reflects a fundamental ignorance of the value-added benefits attributable to the growing domestic ethanol industry. Worse, by parroting a paper by James Brovard, bought and paid for by major oil companies, Ms. Malkin also got her facts wrong on ethanol's impact on air quality. Like Iowa, Nebraska exports much of its corn and soybeans as whole products. Processing grain for ethanol represents a means to add value to agricultural products, representing a tremendous opportunity for rural economic growth and investment. Today, 21 states, including Nebraska and Iowa, boast ethanol production facilities, most of which are farmer-owned cooperatives, not large agribusinesses. More than 900,000 farmers gain value for their products through ethanol processing. The ag economy would be far worse without the demand for grain attributable to ethanol. Sen. John McCain's anti-ethanol stance is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the ethanol industry. The Environmental Protection Agency concluded that ethanol reduces emissions of smog-forming hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and toxins. Presidential candidates have good reason to support ethanol."

Alaska's Incredible Hog: The Associated Press reports that "more than half a billion dollars in federal projects will cascade into Alaska in 2000. And behind most of it is the state's venerable Sen. Ted Stevens."

"There's $2 million to clear beetle-infested spruce trees on the Kenai Peninsula, and $5.9 million to try reducing fetal alcohol syndrome. The Federal Aviation Administration will get $2 million that Stevens says will help pilots by tracking volcano emissions. And the state will receive $135,000 to dab anti-cavity sealants onto children's teeth...

"The half billion dollars places Stevens, who likes wearing ``Incredible Hulk'' ties when the going gets rough, among Congress' elite in bringing home federal largesse...

"Stevens justifies the spending he brings to Alaska by saying he only does what other lawmakers have long done for their own states..."

Green eggs, political pork: Washington Times political correspondent Donald Lambro reports that Congress recently appropriated $400,000 for a memorial to the late Dr. Seuss, author of the children's book "Green Eggs and Ham." 

"The provision was rejected last year. But it magically reappeared in this year's HUD bill, thanks to a back-room deal cut by two Massachusetts Democrats: Sen. Edward Kennedy and Rep. Richard Neal...Among the special-interest goodies for Bay State residents —$500,000 for a Boys and Girls Club in Chelsea; $197 million for helicopter engines made in Lynn; and $500,000 to help Assumption College in Worcester build a science center named after Mr. Kennedy's oldest brother, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., who was killed in World War II.

In all, Mr. Kennedy and other Bay State Democrats earmarked $760 million in additional spending in this year's 13 appropriations bills, much of it for private organizations in their state..."

More examples:

"Among some of the worst pork-barrel expenditures in this year's budget:
     a) $100,000 to develop "pungency testing procedures" on Vidalia onions in Georgia.
     b) A $2 million Department of Commerce grant to PPL Therapeutics, Inc., a company in Scotland, to develop technology to clone pigs.
     c) $100,000 for Philadelphia's jazz-in-the-schools program.
     d) $650,000 to research alternative salmon products in Alaska.
     e) $500,000 for research at North Carolina State University on, appropriately enough, swine-waste management.
     f) $1.2 million for a viticulture (wine industry) consortium in New York and California.
     g) $246,000 for an "income enhancement demonstration project" to study the feasibility of farmers markets at Ohio Turnpike plazas.
     h) $200,000 for a rural studies center in Vermont to develop retail shopping areas.
     The list of pork-barrel projects seems endless: $1.75 million to develop better manure-handling methods; $200,000 for sunflower research; $300,000 to study the feasibility of building the Wheels Museum in New Mexico; $4 million for a parking facility in Hot Springs, Ark..."

Mallrats vs. the mighty mouse: Traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers want to soak Internet commerce to "level the playing field."  Retailers say it isn't fair for e-tailers to have discriminatory tax advantages.  Boo-hoo.  What about all the direct and indirect subsidies we've been forced to give to mall developers and real estate barons under the guise of "public-private partnerships?"

  • Read Michelle Malkin's recent column on the cornucopia of corporate welfare schemes for mallrats.

Fork over the pork: The Washington Post reports that tech firms in Virginia are demanding similar tax breaks that the state Legislature targeted to a single company -- their rival, America Online -- earlier this year.  Who can blame them?   The Post writes:

...AOL's tax break covers computer equipment it is buying for a data center under construction in Prince William County. The AOL deal was the result of legislation that was written in such a way as to benefit only the Dulles-based Internet giant. State lawmakers passed the measure early this year in an effort to get the company to build the facility in Prince William rather than in North Carolina.

The legislation--which never mentioned AOL by name--waived the 4.5 percent sales tax on certain computer servers and other equipment bought by any Internet service provider that offered proprietary content to "end users"--AOL's customers, in this case.

It was a description that apparently fit AOL alone, not the other companies that are building extraordinarily secure, warehouse-like data and Web-hosting centers throughout western Fairfax and eastern Loudoun counties. The fortresses have miles of fiber-optic cables strung through them and are protected by bulletproof walls...

Crossing the line: The Los Angeles Times 'fesses up to a cozy corporate welfare deal in a front-page mea culpa.  Pulitzer Prize-winning media critic David Shaw reports:

"(O)n Oct. 10, The Times had published a 168-page special issue of its Sunday magazine, devoted entirely to the new Staples Center downtown; only after it was published did most of the paper's journalists learn that The Times had split the advertising profits from the magazine with Staples Center. That arrangement constituted a conflict of interest and violation of the journalistic principle of editorial independence so flagrant that more than 300 Times reporters and editors had signed a petition demanding that their publisher, Kathryn Downing, apologize and undertake "a thorough review of all other financial relationships that may compromise The Times' editorial heritage."

Staple Center is the $400 million hockey/basketball arena in downtown Los Angeles, funded in part with city redevelopment funds. 

Shaw continues: "To be sure, The Times is not the first newspaper to make a deal with a local sports arena or sports team that raised questions. The owners of USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the Dallas Morning News, the Arizona Republic, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Rocky Mountain News in Denver have all invested in sports teams. Even if these newspapers are scrupulously fair, such arrangements put them in the awkward position of having to cover, on a regular basis, teams that are part of their own corporate families. The potential for--and the appearance of--a conflict of interest is inevitable."

Read the entire report here.

Debate in Detroit:  The Detroit News asks readers, "Should Compuware get tax break?"

  • "Compuware, the computer firm moving to Detroit, has received a significant tax break on its building and equipment -- after promising it would not seek such breaks. Should the city have offered the break? Some say such tax breaks are necessary to lure firms and jobs back to the city. Others contend such breaks are unfair and just show that city taxes are too high for everyone."

    One reader writes: "Compuware, after promising it would not seek tax breaks on its building or equipment in Detroit, is offered a significant tax break from the city of Detroit. Stupid, but then aren’t the taxpayers footing the bill for rich people’s new toys, two new stadiums going up, new casinos, and now this?

    Another says: "Compuware’s heist of the city of Detroit exemplifies corporate welfare. Compuware promises jobs, and Detroit city officials open the city coffers and give the company a blank check. City taxpayers, who subsidize Coleman Young’s ill-fated People Mover for $9-plus million a year, must cover the Compuware giveaway.

    Detroit officials endorse corporate welfare, and democracy suffers."

    Read more letters here.


Sickly sweet: Paul Roberts writes about sugar subsidies in Harper's Magazine.Through price supports, loan guarantees and import quotas, the federal sugar program keeps the domestic price of sugar some 50 percent above the world market price. It adds $1.4 billion to consumers' food bills, or $5.19 per person, annually. More background from the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Welcome, new porkwatchers from Missouri: Make yourselves at home, send tips and suggestions, and let the St. Louis Post-Dispatch know (at oped@postnet.com) if you'd like to see my column published regularly on their op-ed pages.  Thank you! 

Oink, oink, oink, oink, oink:  Five out of six GOP presidential candidates agree -- corporate welfare for the ethanol industry is good for the economy.  Only Sen. John McCain opposed wasteful ethanol subsidies at the debate this week in Iowa.  Read Michelle Malkin's latest column.

Ethanol etiquette: Scripps Howard editorial writer Jay Ambrose weighs in on the debate:

Yes, it's true that, in the Iowa debate the other night, Sen. John McCain had precious little to lose by suggesting the conclusion of a fraudulent federal program pumping billions into the pockets of farmers and others in the region. After all, McCain has made next to no effort to win delegates in the precinct caucuses in that state next month. His emphasis is on New Hampshire.

Still, it was heartening to hear the Arizona Republican denounce subsidies for ethanol as a wasteful giveaway that accomplishes zilch. He said the other presidential candidates would agree with him if they weren't trying to garner votes in the state, and Texas Gov. George W. Bush responded it just wasn't so. He said it was because ethanol helped curb air pollution that he championed federal support.

Maybe Bush believes this. Maybe he hasn't seen the various studies showing that ethanol - a gasoline alternative produced largely from corn crops - serves the environment scarcely one iota. Maybe he doesn't know that it's to win votes in the Midwest and to win campaign contributions from Archer Daniels Midland that the White House and members of both parties in Congress continue to fund the ethanol program.

But, as McCain said, "Ethanol is not worth it." It is in fact one corporate-welfare program among many that could be tossed for the sake of reduced federal spending and lower taxes or to find money for truly worthwhile programs. Not many politicians - even those not making much of an effort in Iowa's Republican presidential caucuses - are willing to say as much, and McCain deserves credit for stepping forward.

Kill defense pork: The Cato Institute's Doug Bandow writes in a new commentary: "Republicans and Democrats alike claim to support fiscal responsibility, but you wouldn't know it from the defense budget. The House-Senate Conference Committee has approved $288.8 billion in budget authority for next year -- $8.3 billion more than requested by the Clinton administration, whose own proposal was larded with pork...funds are being squandered to subsidize businessmen and reelect congressmen." 

Foxborough, MA goes to the polls: A Dec. 6 election will decide the fate of the New England Patriots' scheme to raid the state treasury for a proposed new $275 football stadium. Read more in the Boston Globe.

  • UPDATE: Patriots win, taxpayers lose. How did the Pats convince more than 93 percent of the townspeople to approve the stadium deal?  The Globe reports: "Concerned over the poll results, the Patriots launched what amounted to a political campaign, complete with rallies on the town common led by the team's players, including quarterback Drew Bledsoe. The team also ran ads in the local newspaper, sweetened its lease agreement with the town, and agreed to help the town build a larger sewage treatment plant that could accommodate nonstadium development. Team officials also met with virtually every local group, from the chamber of commerce to the cribbage club."

FedEx hub hubbub: In North Carolina, county, state, and federal tax dollars will be used to build a new airport hub for express delivery giant FedEx.  A letter writer in the Greensboro NC News and Record says: "FedEx doesn't need welfare from taxpayers." The News and Record editorializes that targeted corporate tax incentives are not all they're cracked up to be. 

  • A Greensboro, N.C. resident writes: If FedEx can't get the tax breaks, it won't come. We should be able to stop corporate welfare. We did it with major-league baseball. Greensboro is a special place. Let's keep it that way.

Tax scams in Missouri: Columnist Ray Hartmann of the Riverfront Times keeps a sharp eye trained on high-tech pork and stadium madness in Missouri. 

Taxpayer exploitation conspiracy?: A few brave public officials, who wanted to find out whether the Minnesota Twins conspired with other baseball teams to boycott cities that don't provide taxpayer-financed stadiums, were stymied by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Associated Press reports:

...The Minnesota attorney general's office began its investigation in 1997 after Twins owner Carl Pohlad announced he would sell the team to a North Carolina partnership if state lawmakers did not authorize public funding for a new stadium.

Days later, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig told Minnesota officials that if a publicly financed stadium was not built, other team owners would approve the Twins' move from Minnesota.

State officials demanded that the Twins and other baseball organizations provide information on the financial viability of the Twins' current stadium, efforts by other teams to get new stadiums and the 1961 move of the Washington Senators to Minnesota.

The Twins organization argued that the investigation was barred by baseball's antitrust exemption, dating to a 1922 Supreme Court decision, and the Minnesota Supreme Court agreed, barring the state from beginning any investigation....

...The Twins remain in Minneapolis for now, but the team's future remains uncertain after St. Paul voters on Nov. 2 rejected a proposed sales tax increase to pay for a new stadium to lure the team across the Mississippi River to their city.

The case is Minnesota vs. Minnesota Twins Partnership, 99-414.

Coke is it: From an op-ed in the Washington Times by Quin Hillyer: "In the appropriations bill for the Department of the Interior, Alaska received a last-minute infusion of $22 million, including funds to convert a pulp mill to a Coca-Cola bottling plant. Why does the wealthy cola giant need special aid from the federal government?"  Good question!

A watchdog wins election: Anti-corporate welfare crusader Steve Eugster claimed a seat on the Spokane (WA) City Council in November.  He's the reform-minded lawyer who challenged the local establishment's shady use of a low-interest federal HUD loan for a $110 million Nordstrom shopping center.  Eugster's first order of business: Shedding light on the secret details of the deal.

Arms aid: More than half of U.S. weapons exports are now being financed by taxpayers instead of foreign arms purchasers. In 1996, analyst William Hartung writes, the government spent more than $7.9 billion to help U.S. companies secure just over $12 billion in agreements for new international arms sales.  Hartung's new report for the libertarian Cato Institute finds that the federal defense and foreign aid budgets are the largest single source of government funding for private corporations.





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HOG-GONE IT!    Look who's eating us out of house and home:

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sports piggies

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timber piggies

mother jones' list of top 10 little piggies

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