Citizens Against Government Waste

Citizens Against Government Waste

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in the United States. It functions as a think-tank, 'government watchdog', and advocacy group for fiscally conservative causes. The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) is the lobbying arm of CAGW, organized as a section 501(c)(4) organization, and therefore permitted to engage in direct lobbying activities. CAGW has been criticized for its links to the tobacco industry and to lobbyists including Jack Abramoff. According to their web site, "CAGW is a private, non-partisan, non-profit organization representing more than one million members and supporters nationwide. CAGW's mission is to eliminate waste, mismanagement, and inefficiency in the federal government."



Located in Washington, DC, CAGW was founded in 1984 by industrialist J. Peter Grace and syndicated columnist Jack Anderson, former members of the Grace Commission or President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control.[1] CAGW's current President is Thomas A. Schatz. Schatz has been president since 1992.[2]


CAGW produces a number of publications critical of what it calls "pork-barrel" projects. The Congressional Pig Book Summary (Pig Book) is an annual list of such projects and their sponsors.

The 2008 Pig Book identified 10,610 projects in the 11 appropriations bills that constitute the discretionary portion of the federal budget for fiscal 2008, costing taxpayers $17.2 billion.[3] Related publications include Prime Cuts, a list of recommendations for eliminating waste in the federal government and Porker of the Month, a monthly press release.

Also, since 1989, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) has examined Congressional roll-call votes to determine which members of Congress are voting in what they view as the interest of taxpayers. CAGW makes public what legislators are engaging in "pork-barrel" spending based on 'key' votes for each congressional session.

Activity of CAGW

CAGW and CCAGW seek to influence public policy through public education, lobbying, and mobilization for email- and letter-writing campaigns. CAGW claims to have helped save taxpayers $944 billion through the implementation of Grace Commission findings and other recommendations.

CAGW was one of the critics of the 2001 $23.5 billion Air Force plan to lease and then buy 100 refueling tankers from Boeing Co. Congress squashed the plan after it was revealed that an Air Force official inflated the price in exchange for an executive job at Boeing.[4]

CAGW was a prominent critic of Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and his efforts to secure a record $2.3 billion federal loan for a railroad company that once employed him as a lobbyist. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) cited an “unacceptably high risk to taxpayers” in denying the loan to the Dakota, Minnesota, and Eastern Railroad (DM&E) in 2007.[5]

CAGW named Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) its June 2008 Porker of the Month for accepting a preferential mortgage deal from Countrywide Financial which stood to benefit from a mortgage bailout bill he was pushing through Congress.[6]


Microsoft's Antitrust Case (Litigation)

In 2001, the Los Angeles Times reported that at least two dead people sent a form letter by CAGW opposing the antitrust case against Microsoft to Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. According to the Times, family members crossed out the names on the form letters and signed for them. This brought about the "Microsoft Supported by Dead People" controversy[7] from Microsoft's and CAGW's opponents. The CAGW said that they were not tied to Microsoft or to ATL, although Microsoft has donated money to CAGW.[8]

Freeware Initiative

In 2003, CAGW put out a press release opposed to what they called the "Freeware Initiative", which they claimed would have required that all IT expenditures for Massachusetts in 2004 and 2005 be made on an open-source/Linux format".[9]

Responding to the press release, the state's secretary for administration and finance, Eric Kriss, denied the existence of a 'Freeware Initiative' and said the state was simply considering ways to integrate disparate systems using open standards such as HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), XML (Extensible Markup Language) and Java. "I never heard that term. I never said it. We're not pursuing any kind of 'Freeware Initiative' and anyone who is saying that is making inaccurate statements," he said.[10]

CAGW and tobacco

The St. Petersburg Times reported that CAGW "got at least $245,000 from the tobacco industry", and subsequently lobbied on its behalf. Internal tobacco industry documents made available by the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement indicate that CAGW and its affiliates supported the tobacco industry in several instances. Specifically, in 2001, when an industry-sponsored bill entitled the "Youth Smoking Reduction Act" was introduced in Congress, CAGW sent a letter supporting this legislation.[11] On the contrary, most public health and medical organizations, wrote a letter strongly opposing the legislation. They stated that despite the name of the bill, if enacted, "would do more harm than good to the public health."[12] CAGW was also contacted by Phillip Morris to include ASSIST, a federal tobacco control program, in their Pig Book. ASSIST was considered an imminent threat to industry activities at the time.[13]

Asked about his group's tobacco work, CAGW president Tom Schatz said, "We have always welcomed contributions to support the issues we support. Many of them have to do with fighting higher taxes and more regulations."[14] [15]

Other controversies

Throughout its history, CAGW has been accused of fronting lobbying efforts of corporations to give them the appearance of "grassroots" support.[16] In part, this is because CAGW has accepted donations from Phillip Morris, the Olin Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, Microsoft, Merrill Lynch, and Exxon-Mobil.

According to the St. Petersburg Times in 2006, the Pig Book has been used to benefit corporate donors, specifically health clubs who donated to CAGW. The Pig Book listed federal grants to YMCAs who compete with those health clubs as waste. CAGW's president countered that "The Ys are there because they qualify as pork. Period."[16]

A Senate Finance Committee investigating ties between CAGW and other non-profits and Jack Abramoff in 2006 stated in a report that the non-profits: 'probably violated their tax-exempt status "by laundering payments and then disbursing funds at Mr. Abramoff's direction; taking payments in exchange for writing newspaper columns or press releases that put Mr. Abramoff's clients in a favorable light; introducing Mr. Abramoff's clients to government officials in exchange for payment; and agreeing to act as a front organization for congressional trips paid for by Mr. Abramoff's clients."'[17]

In 2007, CAGW supported a bill that would limit damages resulting from malpractice lawsuits.[18] Many consumer watchdog groups opposed the bill.[19]

In 2009, CAGW had been lobbying against the F136 alternate engine for the F-35 JSF made by GE/Rolls Royce. A GE Aviation spokesperson said it was always a strong suspicion that CAGW was funded by Pratt & Whitney(which manufactures the F135 engine for the JSF)[20] but a Pratt & Whitney spokesperson said they weren't funding CAGW's lobbying efforts.[20]

In October 2010, CAGW introduced a television attack ad suggesting that economic stimulus spending, health care reform, and other actions characterized as "turning their back on the principles that made them great" would lead to the downfall of the US and an economic takeover by China.[21][22]


  1. ^ "Remarks on Receiving the Final Report of the President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control in the Federal Government". President Ronald Reagan Speech October 28, 1985. Retrieved April 29, 2008. 
  2. ^ "A Hole in the Government’s Pocket". FrontPage Magazine. Retrieved April 29, 2008. 
  3. ^ "'Pig book' puts pet spending in spotlight". MSNBC. Retrieved April 29, 2008. 
  4. ^ "Right-Left Coalition Denounces Boeing Corporate Welfare Deal". Retrieved April 29, 2008. 
  5. ^ "Sen. Thune avoids being named 'Porker of the Year’". Rapid City Journal. Retrieved April 29, 2008. 
  6. ^ CAGW Names Sen. Dodd Porker of the Month
  7. ^ Olavsrud, Thor (August 23, 2001). "Microsoft Supported by Dead People". Retrieved December 19, 2006. 
  8. ^ Schatz, Thomas A. (August 23, 2001). "CAGW Criticizes LA Times Story". politech. Retrieved December 19, 2006. 
  9. ^ Citizens Against Government Waste: NewsRelease_09302003b
  10. ^ Mass. official: "Open source" reports overstated | InfoWorld | News | 2003-10-03 | By Paul Roberts, IDG News Service
  11. ^ [1], Letter supporting Youth Smoking Reduction Act by CAGW
  12. ^ [2], Letter against Youth Smoking Reduction Act by several public health agencies
  13. ^ [3], Recap of ASSIST Meeting
  14. ^ When tobacco needed a voice, CAGW spoke up and profited, St. Petersburg Times, April 2, 2006
  15. ^ (kpx21c00)
  16. ^ a b For price, watchdog will be an advocate, St. Petersburg Times, April 2, 2006
  17. ^ Grimaldi, James V.; Schmidt, Susan (2006-10-12). "Senate Report: Five Nonprofit Groups Sold Clout to Abramoff". Washington Post. Retrieved April 30, 2010. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b "F-35 is the subject of watchdog’s media blitz". The Hill. 2009-10-23. 
  21. ^ "The Phenomenal 'Chinese Professor' Ad". The Atlantic, October 21, 2010.
  22. ^ "Fear China, Screams Memorable Attack Ad". Mediaite, October 23, 2010.

External links

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