July 31, 2006
Academic Pork
Posted by Fred Tung

Mississippi State University is getting $37.2 million dollars in federal R&D earmarks this year, just as its senior senator Thad Cochran has ascended to the chair of the appropriations committee.  Its earmarks from last year totaled only $19.8 million, while Ted Stevens of Alaska was chair.  Among the past beneficiaries of government largess in Mississippi are the Thad Cochran National Warmwater Aquaculture Center at MSU Stoneville, the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park at MSU Starkville, and the Thad Cochran Research Center at his alma mater Ole Miss.   P2b_1

According to CSM:

"Universities have long mastered the whole vanity game of naming rights [for new campus facilities], and in recent years they've added politicians who, unlike philanthropic donors giving their own money, are the Thad Cochrans of the world giving someone else's money," says Ron Utt, a budget expert at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington.

Besides the interesting tale of MSU's success in garnering federal funds, CSM has a companion piece detailing the increasing efforts of academic institutions to lobby Congress for "directed appropriations." 

Academic earmarks jumped from $15 million the first year of the Reagan presidency to $336 million in fiscal year 1989, the year he left office.  By the 1990s, academic institutions rivaled defense contractors as consumers of lobby services to win federal earmarks - and helped define a new lobbying specialty in Washington's K Street corridor.

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