CAPITOL HILL - No matter how you dress it up, a pig is still a pig. And in Washington, it's the symbol of a long-standing custom that a growing number of lawmakers say amounts to a culture of corruption.
It's the practice of earmarks -- when members of Congress channel money back to their home districts for special projects.
This year, Congress had more than 9,100 earmarks worth $16.5 billion in pork barrel spending -- a 10 percent decline from the 2009.
With a struggling economy and tea parties decrying government spending, earmarks are no longer something to brag about.
"We hope it's not just a one year blip," said David Williams of Citizens Against Government Waste. "We hope that this continues and that members of Congress are starting to get the message that taxpayers don't want this."
His group says both political parties are guilty of earmarks.
The biggest spender in all of Congress is a Republican -- Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran. Rounding out the top five is the so-called "king of pork," Democrat Robert Byrd.
Citizens Against Government Waste has been tracking earmarks for 20 years.
"We need one president, I don't care if it's Democrat or Republican, to veto a spending bill," Williams said. "It would send a huge message to Congress and to the American people."
Republicans are hoping earmark reforms will give them an upper hand with voters this fall.
"This November election I'm convinced will be as much about who asks for earmarks and who doesn't, than any election we've ever had," Republican Sen. Jim DeMint said. "If you want to know who's really going to be the advocate for the change in this Congress, you can tell by whether or not they're going to request earmarks."
But when it comes the biggest spenders, both parties are in need of a makeover.