Pork-Barrel Politics

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DEFINITION of 'Pork-Barrel Politics'

A slang term used when politicians or governments "unofficially" undertake projects that benefit a group of citizens in return for that group's support or campaign donations. This spending mostly benefits the needs of a small select group despite the fact that the entire community's funds are being used.

Also referred to as "patronage".

INVESTOPEDIA EXPLAINS 'Pork-Barrel Politics'

For example, let's say a city has a large number of potholes, spread evenly throughout its communities. If the mayor took campaign contributions from a group of wealthy residents in exchange for a promise to fix the potholes in their neighborhood first, this would be pork-barrel politics.

One possible derivation for the phrase comes from the practice of country stores keeping a barrel of salted pork open and available to the public. Certain high-ranking citizens would come by daily to dip into this common fund.

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