Central Valley

Valley congressmen serve up the pork

Northern San Joaquin Valley congressmen brought home millions of dollars for area projects, according to a new database.

It shows freshman Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, led the way with $18.3 million, followed by Rep. George Radano-vich, R-Mariposa, with $15.8 million and Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, with $11.6 million.

The database was assembled by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a budget watchdog that advocates sharply curbing the practice of dedicating money for local projects -- called "earmarks."

But it shows only a dozen House members and half as many senators declined to play in Congress' pork barrel playground last year by refusing to ask for home state projects.

Cardoza's biggest earmark is $4.2 million to manage the salinity of the San Joaquin River, followed by $2 million for defense work by Modesto-based Westland Technologies, Inc., a project he shared with Radano-vich.

Shared earmarks made up three of McNerney's largest projects, which were in Sacramento and the Bay Area.

A $3.2 million earmark for homeland defense training for the National Guard had four representatives sharing credit, including powerful Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek. She also appeared on a McNerney earmark for $2.9 million to bring Bay Area Rapid Transit to Livermore and on $2.8 million for a recycled water program in the San Ramon Valley.

He single-handedly managed to get $1.6 million for virtual simulation and modernization of the Bradley fighting vehicle, work that involves Pleasanton and Santa Clara firms.

In the valley, McNerney got $980,000 to reconstruct the Interstate 5 interchanges at French Camp and a Sperry Road connection; $735,000 for the San Joaquin Regional Transit District; $490,000 for the San Joaquin County agricultural center; and $492,000 for improving water quality in Manteca.

Radanovich secured $7.8 million for an energy project, $2.4 million for ammunition to be produced by the Riverbank ammunition plant and $1 million for a remote video weapons project in Sonora.

Cumulatively, the 535 members of Congress obtained more than $18 billion worth of these so-called earmarks. California's delegation, the largest in the nation, brought home $928 million, tops in the nation.

A familiar club of old-school lawmakers on the pork- dispensing appropriations committees send home the lion's share of the loot, with the most adroit earmarkers obtaining well more than $100 per resident in projects and grants for their states.

The champion is Republican Ted Stevens, who has represented Alaska in the Senate for 40 years and is a former Appropriations Committee chairman who obtained the lion's share of the $345 million in earmarks his state is getting this year. Alaska's earmarks in 2008 amount to $506 for every resident of the state.

A close second is Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., whose efforts for his state are legendary. Byrd got $330 million this year for West Virginia, which ranks third in terms of pork dollars per resident at $198.