Though they rail constantly about earmarks, Congressmen continue to line up at the trough, a.k.a. the federal treasury, tapping it for pet projects that endear them to their constituents. These fall into the category of pork barrel, or just plain pork.
During the 19th century, farmers traditionally stored their salted pork away in a barrel, making it a special source of sustenance to which they could turn when fresh food was not available. It was also treated as a symbol of foresight. Equating the fatness of pork, the stashing of it away, and its availability during thin times, helped contribute to the political largesse, we called pork barrel projects (mid 1850s) which belied the original intent of a prudent management of resources.
Lawmakers gaining monetarily from their office. So what else is new? We first began to graft in 1475 by inserting a shoot from one plant into another.
By 1865, we were also inserting money into pockets in exchange for future favors. No wonder that we soon spoke about our lawmakers lining their pockets.
Folk etymology, as always provides a good story as to the origins of the phrase, though it really speaks for itself. But why pass up a good story?
It begins with the tailor of noted fashion plate Beau Brummel (1778-1840). Hoping to curry Brummel’s favor, the tailor sent him an especially ornate coat, which he embellished by lining its pockets with money. Reportedly Brummel thanked the tailor, noting his admiration for both the coat and its lining. Whether this sewed up Brummel’s future business is unknown.
Not to despair. As every good lawyer knows, every suit has a silver lining.