pork barrel \PORK-BAIR-ul\
noun: government projects or appropriations yielding rich patronage benefits; also: government funds, jobs, or favors distributed by politicians to gain political advantage
It was apparent that the construction of the new parking garage was not a necessary project but a pork barrel deal for the business owners who would see increased foot traffic.
“In a debate over pork barrel projects in 2007, [Sen. Tom Coburn] admonished his colleagues, ‘Your duty is to the country as a whole, not to the well-heeled special interests who are the beneficiaries.'” — Chris Casteel, NewsOK.com (Oklahoma City), September 7, 2014
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 usually used attributively in constructions such as “pork barrel spending” or “a pork barrel project.”