Citizens Against Government Waste

Last updated
Citizens Against Government Waste
Citizens Against Government Waste Logo.png
TypeAdvocacy group
Headquarters1100 Connecticut Avenue NW
  • Washington, D.C.
Region served
United States
Thomas A. Schatz

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) 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 is permitted to engage in direct lobbying activities. According to its web site, "CAGW is a private, non-partisan, non-profit organization representing more than one million members and supporters nationwide. CAGW's stated 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. Peter Grace was chairman of President Ronald Reagan's Grace Commission or President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control. [1] Thomas A. Schatz has been president since 1992.[ citation needed ]


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. [2] 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.

Since 1989, the 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.


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 its campaigns.

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. [3]

CAGW was a critic of Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and his efforts to secure a $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. [4]

CAGW named Sen. 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. [5]

Microsoft's antitrust case litigation

In 2001, the Los Angeles Times reported that at least two dead people had sent a form letter by CAGW opposing the antitrust case against Microsoft to Mark Shurtleff, then Attorney General of Utah. State officials found that the decedents' family members had crossed out the names on the form letters and signed for them; another letter had come from the nonexistent city of "Tuscon, Utah". [6] [7]

Freeware initiative

In 2003, CAGW put out a press release opposed to what it called the "Freeware Initiative" in the State of Massachusetts, which it claimed would have required "that all IT expenditures in 2004 and 2005 be made on an open-source/Linux format." [8]

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. [9]

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 provided a letter of support, despite the opposition of most public health organizations. [10] [11] CAGW was also contacted by Phillip Morris to include ASSIST (Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test), a federal tobacco control program, in their Pig Book. ASSIST was considered an imminent threat to industry activities at the time. [12]

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." [13] [14]


Throughout its history, CAGW has been accused of fronting lobbying efforts of corporations to give them the appearance of "grassroots" support. [15]

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. It 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." [15]

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."' [16]

In 2007, CAGW supported a bill that would limit damages resulting from malpractice lawsuits. [17] Many consumer watchdog groups opposed the bill. [18]

"Chinese Professor" ad

The CAGW launched an ad, now commonly referred to as "Chinese Professor" for the 2010 midterm elections, which portrays a 2030 conquest of an indebted United States by China. Local Asian American extras were used to portray the Chinese students, although the actors were not informed of the nature of the shoot. [19] Columnist Jeff Yang said that in the campaign there was a "blurry line between Chinese and Chinese-Americans". [20] Larry McCarthy, the producer of "Chinese Professor," defended his work by saying that "this ad is about America, it's not about China." [21] [22]


During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the group received assistance between $150,000 and $350,000 in federally backed small business loan from Truist Bank as part of the Paycheck Protection Program. The nonprofit stated it would allow them to retain 17 jobs. Their loan was seen as notable, since they campaign against excess government spending and are small-government advocates. CAGW said it was the first time they have accepted government money. Danny Westneat of The Seattle Times quipped that "We're all socialists now, apparently.", calling CAGW an anti-debt crusader. [23] [24]

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  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. "Pig book puts pet spending in spotlight". NBC News. Retrieved April 29, 2008.
  3. "Right-Left Coalition Denounces Boeing Corporate Welfare Deal". Archived from the original on July 17, 2008. Retrieved April 29, 2008.
  4. "Sen. Thune avoids being named 'Porker of the Year'". Rapid City Journal. Retrieved April 29, 2008.
  5. "CAGW Names Sen. Dodd Porker of the Month" (Press release). June 24, 2008. Archived from the original on June 23, 2015.
  6. Menn, Joseph; Sanders, Edmund (August 23, 2001). "Lobbyists Tied to Microsoft Wrote Citizens' Letters". Los Angeles Times .
  7. Robyn Weisman (August 23, 2001). "Report: Phony 'Grassroots' Campaign Orchestrated by Microsoft". Archived from the original on 2007-01-28. Retrieved 2007-02-01.
  8. Citizens Against Government Waste: NewsRelease_09302003b
  9. | InfoWorld | News | 2003-10-03 | By Paul Roberts, IDG News Service
  10. , Letter supporting Youth Smoking Reduction Act by CAGW
  11. , Letter against Youth Smoking Reduction Act by several public health agencies
  12. , Recap of ASSIST Meeting
  13. When tobacco needed a voice, CAGW spoke up and profited, St. Petersburg Times, April 2, 2006
  14. (kpx21c00)
  15. 1 2 For price, watchdog will be an advocate, St. Petersburg Times, April 2, 2006 Archived November 28, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  16. "Senate Report: Five Nonprofit Groups Sold Clout to Abramoff". Washington Post. 2006-10-12.
  17. "Citizens Against Government Waste". Archived from the original on 2008-10-25. Retrieved 2008-02-03.
  19. Yang, Jeff (2010-10-27). "Politicians Play The China Card". Tell Me More. NPR . Retrieved 2010-12-05.
  20. Lyden, Jacki (2010-10-27). "Critics Say Political Ads Hint Of Xenophobia". NPR . Retrieved 2010-12-05.
  21. Smith, Ben (2010-10-22). "Behind The Chinese Professor".
  22. Osnos, Evan (November 6, 2012) "The Year China-Bashing Went Mainstream", The New Yorker .
  23. Sullivan, Andy (6 July 2020). "Small-government advocates, lobbyists tap $660 billion U.S. pandemic-aid fund". WKZO. Retrieved 9 July 2020.
  24. Danny Westneat (6 July 2020). "Local anti-tax groups find even they need big government aid sometimes". Retrieved 9 July 2020.