The stack of spending-request letters between these GOP members and federal agencies stands more than a foot tall, and disheartens some of the activists who sent Republicans to Washington in the last election.

“It’s pretty disturbing,” says Judson Phillips, founder of Tea Party Nation, when told about the stack of letters from members, many of whom he supported in 2010. “We sent many of these people there, and really, I wish some of our folks would get up and say, you know what, we have to cut the budget, and the budget is never going to get cut if all 535 members of Congress have their hands out all the time.”

Many of the letters seek to tap the stimulus, clean-energy loans, and innovation grants—programs the same Republicans have accused Obama and the Democrats of using to bloat government and jeopardize America’s future. And these fiscal conservatives often used in their private letters the same arguments they pan in public…

One lawmaker’s pork-barrel spending, of course, has always been another’s opportunity to show his constituents he cares. But in an election cycle certain to revolve around the economy and unemployment, the divergence between rhetoric and reality is unusually stark. And to average Americans, the fiscal hawks’ public bashing of spending they seek privately feels a lot like watching a fitness guru gobble down a milkshake and a Big Mac.