I started to read Tom Prohaska's article in the BuffNews today about casino slot revenue distributions, and was immediately halted after reading the first paragraph. It stated, "the Niagara County Legislature rolled out the pork barrel last week, allocating $50,000 from the county’s share of Seneca Niagara Casino revenue to a variety of local projects and events."
Now, we've all heard the term "pork barrel" before, but I always assumed that it was the use of taxpayer dollars to fund projects within a specific elected official's district. So I looked it up.
Merriam-Webster defines pork barrel as "government projects or appropriations yielding rich patronage benefits".
Wikipedia states that the term pork barrel politics refers to "government spending that is intended to benefit constituents of a politician in return for their political support, either in the form of campaign contributions or votes."
Answers.com says that it's "a government project or appropriation that yields jobs or other benefits to a specific locale and patronage opportunities to its political representative."
Since the definitions seem to center around "patronage", I looked up patronage. In political terms, I got "the control of or power to make appointments to government jobs or the power to grant other political favors."
So I looked at the source of funding again. Yep, it's casino dollars, not government dollars. Then I looked at the recipient list again. The Niagara Falls Veterans Memorial Commission, the Niagara Community Center, Twin Cities Community Outreach, the Aquarium of Niagara, the Harley Owners Group rally in Niagara Falls, the Celtic Festival and the Pirates Festival and the Barker Business Association.
What I'm trying to do is connect the use of the term pork barrel and the organizations getting the casino cash, and quite frankly, I'm not getting it. How is dispensing a few bucks to a Veterans monument leading to patronage? Or giving money to a community outreach program? Especially when it's not government dollars, as every definition of "pork barrel" included.
By no means do I not believe that there is patronage at every single layer of government, but is funding community-benefiting events or causes with slot revenues pork barrel spending? Personally, I don't see it. And even though we've disagreed with Prohaska from time to time, he is generally thought to be a pretty competent journalist. That's why we have to wonder about his choice of words on this one.
If there is true pork barrel spending, by all means, do a detailed expose on it. Otherwise, don't make stuff up, Tom. It really kills your credibility.