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Pork Barrel and Slush Fund

Posted by Masakim on December 08, 2003

In Reply to: Pork Barrel and Slush Fund posted by James Briggs on December 08, 2003

: : : : 'Pork barrelling' is a term I often hear used by politicians. I'm not entirely clear as to what it means (although I suspect I do), and I'm certainly curious as to its origins.

: : : : Any clues please?

: : :
: : : pork barrel / PORK-ba-rul / (noun)
: : : : government projects or appropriations yielding rich patronage benefits
: : : Example sentence:
: : : Although several large appropriations for projects of questionable usefulness went to his home district, the congressman denied that he had supported any budget item that was just a pork barrel.
: : : Did you know?
: : : You might expect that the original pork barrels were barrels for storing pork -- and you're right. In the early 19th century, that's exactly what "pork barrel" meant. But the term was also used figuratively to mean "a supply of money" or "one's livelihood" (a farmer, after all, could readily turn pork into cash). When 20th-century legislators doled out appropriations that benefited their home districts, someone apparently made an association between the profit a farmer got from a barrel of pork and the benefits derived from certain state and federal projects. By 1909, "pork barrel" was being used as a noun naming such government appropriations, and today the term is often used attributively in constructions such as "pork barrel politics" or "pork barrel project."
: : : From "Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day" (Jan 9, 2001)

: : PORK BARREL ? ?the state or national treasury, into which politicians and government officials dip for ?pork,? or funds for local projects?The phrase probably is derived from the pre-Civil War practice of periodically distributing salt pork to the slaves from huge barrels?? From ?Safire?s New Political Dictionary? by William Safire (Random House, New York, 1993).

: A slush fund is a fund of money that is separate and secret from other funds. The original source of such funds was the surplus fat or grease from fried salt pork barrels, the standard food on 19th century ships. The slush was usually sold in port and the money raised used to buy little extras and luxuries for the crew. In 1866 the US Congress had applied the term to a contingency fund it had set up from one of its operating budgets. From that time the expression took on its current meaning.

Slush Fund ... (general fund for small luxyries)
During the age of sail, fried salt pork was a staple food aboard ship. at the end of a voyage, the residual grease, or _slush_, was sold in port to candle and soap makers. Profits were put in the "slush fund," a general account used to purchase little extras for the crew. The term _slush fund_ became very popular in the political arena in the aftermath of the Civil War when it was first used to describe a contingency fund set aside by the Congress. Since it was outside their regular operating budget, the "slush fund" was used for highly irregular and corrupt procedures such as bribes. The expression _pork barrel_, used to describe government funds appropriated for projects as rewards to loyal constituents, is probably an offshoot of post-Civil War "slush fund." In any case, pork barrel appropriations are frequently contested, having assumed some of the negative overtones once associated with slush funds. However, "slush funds" has now reverted to its original meaning, a general fund for small luxuries.
From _When a Loose Cannon Flogs a Dead Horse There's the Devil to Pay_ by Olivia A. Isil