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Randy Hultgren on the national debt

Updated: December 26, 2010 4:36PM

The question

From Norman Kuhman of Yorkville: “History shows the national debt at $1 trillion on Sept. 30, 1981; $2.8 trillion on Sept. 30, 1988; $4.4 trillion on Sept. 30, 1993; $5.8 trillion on Sept. 30, 2001; and $11.6 trillion on Sept. 30, 2009. I am 73, I have four children and 12 grandchildren. How will you cut spending and increase taxes to cut the ever-growing debt?”

The fact-check

Once again, Hultgren mentions that he has signed a pledge not to raise taxes. He’s referring to the Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge, linked above. He’s the only candidate in the race to have signed it.

Hultgren notes that he’s been endorsed by the Citizens Against Government Waste. This is kind of true. Citizens Against Government Waste bills itself as “America’s #1 Taxpayer Watchdog,” and is a “private, non-partisan, non-profit organization,” according to its website, linked above. Each year, among other things, the group compiles a list of what it considers pork projects in the Congressional budget, and notes which elected officials voted for that budget.

But Citizens Against Government Waste doesn’t technically endorse any candidates. They leave that to their political arm, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste Political Action Committee. (We know, it’s confusing.) According to their website, also linked above, the Council “closely monitors voting records and reviews candidate questionnaires to determine which candidates will best represent the taxpayers.”

For the Nov. 2 elections, the CCGAW PAC endorsed 66 candidates for Congress, and three for governor positions. All but one are Republicans. In the 2008 election, they endorsed 54 Congressional candidates, all Republicans.

Hultgren claims that Foster approved more than 19,000 “pork projects.” He’s getting this number from (here they are again) the Citizens Against Government Waste database, which found 10,160 projects it considers wasteful “pork-barrel” spending in the 12 appropriations bills passed in FY 2009. Since Foster voted for these bills, the group (and Hultgren) considers this spending to have received his approval.

The group also found 9,129 “pork” projects in the 12 appropriations bills for FY 2010. So all together, Hultgren might say, Foster approved 19,289 pork projects, totaling $36.1 billion. (The two CAGW lists are linked above.)

But appropriations bills are tricky beasts, as Foster’s camp points out. Without them, the federal government can’t spend a dime, and voting against them (especially on tight deadlines as the previous fiscal year runs out) could leave thousands of projects with which one agrees unfunded. So often one holds one’s nose and votes yes, hoping the good outweighs the bad.

Foster’s campaign provided a list of the 23 amendments Foster has voted against, to the tune of $3.7 billion. (The list is linked above.) In 2010, he asked for just more than $51 million in appropriations for his district.

The campaign said Foster keeps his requests to important causes, like school and university projects and infrastructure improvements. But as the famous saying goes, one man’s important cause is another man’s pork. (Further fact-check: that’s not really a famous saying.)

— Andre Salles

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