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Inouye earmarks beneficial to Hawaii


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POSTED: Sunday, August 23, 2009

Sen. Daniel Inouye has not shied away from his reputation as “;king of pork”; and he told a group of business leaders on the Big Island in the past week, “;I'm the No. 1 earmarks guy in the U.S. Congress.”; That does not mean he engages in wasteful and secretive spending but that he is accomplished in openly steering federal funds to pay for projects he regards as worthwhile, deserving of praise rather than criticism.

He has been criticized in the past of gaining funds for combating the brown tree snake from ravaging Hawaii as it did Guam. The allegations were based on lack on information about the potential danger to the islands.

In March, Sen. John McCain chastised Inouye for securing $28 million in NASA funds as part of a $410 billion spending bill for construction of an astronomy center above the University of Hawaii's Hilo campus and $280,000 for the Polynesian Voyaging Society. Inouye has said the center “;bridges astronomy and culture”; and has admired the society for its maritime exploration and for reawakening native Hawaiian pride.

Last week, Inouye beamed with pride for having obtained earmarks for the Army's Pohakuloa Training Area on the Big Island. He helped dedicate a 6.5-mile section of the improved Saddle Road, which connects the east and west sides of the island.

“;It's a huge project for this island and we can't wait to get it completed,”; said Vivian Landrum, president of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce.

Earmarks have been criticized for their stealth, but Inouye says he is quite open about his own, and Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, praises him for improving accountability on Senate earmarks. Ellis' group and the Center for Responsive Politics report that Inouye sponsored 324 earmarks totaling more than $2 billion in the 2008 and 2009 appropriations.

Inouye has differed from the Obama administration about what is pork. Inouye backed away from his support of the impractical F-22 fighter jet after President Barack Obama threatened a veto of a defense spending bill, but he continues to support continued funding of an alternate engine for the F-35 fighter, despite the administration's opposition.

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., Inouye's counterpart as chairman of the House subcommittee on defense appropriations, has been sharply criticized for inserting 15 earmarks worth $61.4 million that would benefit companies that have donated nearly $200,000 to him through political action committees. Murtha finally relented and introduced the amendment that stripped the F-22 expenditures from the defense bill this month but, like Inouye, continues to support the F-35 second engine.