Rarely has a presidential election offered such a clear choice on the nature of, and approach to, governance. Should the federal government work within proscribed boundaries and honor the limitations of the Constitution — or should it be the piggy bank of elected representatives, expanding ever further to give them opportunities to buy their re-election? Citizens Against Public Waste has the answer in its new Pig Book, and the two Democratic contenders combined for almost $400 million in pork:

The nonpartisan taxpayer watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste is out with its newest Pig Book, an overwhelming detailing of all 11,610 pork barrel projects inserted in the current fiscal year’s appropriations bills by individual members of Congress. …

According to the Pig Book (“The Book Washington Does Not Want You to Read”), New York Sen. Hillary Clinton is our new grand national oinker among presidential contenders for most pork barrel spending. She inserted a whopping 281 individual spending projects into bills for the benefit of New York interests at the cost of taxpayers everywhere.

That totals $296.2 million.

The new national hero, on the other hand, for not inserting one penny of pork barrel spending is the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, Sen. John McCain of Arizona. As a longtime staunch opponent of such earmarks, McCain may be expected to raise the subject of such special spending if Clinton becomes his Democratic opponent in the fall’s general election.

He may also bring it up if his opponent is Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who may be a freshman senator but still isn’t shy about inserting special earmarks into legislation cataloged by the taxpayer group’s annual report. He accounted for 53 special earmarks, totaling almost $97.4 million.

Unfortunately for Beltway politicians, their pork had to carry the names of their authors this year for the first time, and the results are staggering — and embarrassing for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Obama keeps talking about hope and change, but he offers neither in terms of changing the DC culture. He’s only been there three years and he has almost $100 million going to Illinois to bolster his popularity for re-election when the time comes. Hillary’s been there seven years and has almost 300 pork projects to her (dis)credit, coming to almost $300 million.

Is that change Americans can believe in? No, that’s the same old brand of Washington politics. The real change came from John McCain, who has exactly zero pork projects. He’s been in DC for a lot longer than the other two combined, but the difference is that he hasn’t been corrupted by his tenure. It didn’t take long for Obama or Hillary to get corrupted by their short tenure.

However, when it comes to the rest of Congress, the embarrassment spreads out on a bipartisan basis. In the Senate, the top medalists are all Republicans. Thad Cochran (R-MS) has $892 million in pork, almost a billion of the estimated $17.2 billion in overall pork. Ted Stevens (R-AK) gets $469 million, and Richard Shelby (R-AL) only narrowly missed the silver with $464 million. Robert Byrd, from the Robert Byrd State of West Virgina (D-RBSWV), came in fifth this year.

In the House, it’s more of a mix at the top. Roger Wicker (R-MS) joins Cochran in the Senate to replace Trent Lott, and he joined him at the top of the pork lists in the House, too.  Wicker got $176.3 million in pork, followed by Bill Young (R-FL) with $169.5 million, and perennial porker John Murtha (D-PA) with $159.1 million.  Majority Leader Steny Hoyer comes in fifth on this list, and Ron Paul (R-TX) — who claims to oppose pork — wound up with $22.7 million of it.  Only ten Representatives had zero, including my Congressman, John Kline (R-MN).

Shameful.  And while we can’t control those outside our state or district, we can certainly send a message in the presidential election by opposing two porkers and voting for the candidate who doesn’t treat the Treasury like a slush fund.