For many years, the late Wisconson Senator William Proxmire gave away prizes, called the Golden Fleece Awards, for excesses in government spending. Former winners included an $84,000 study to determine why people fall in love, another government funded research project to determine why prisoners wanted to get out of jail, and the infamous $400 hammers and $1200 toilet seats.
In 1980, Proxmire chronicled many of these abuses in his bestselling book The Fleecing of America.
The estate of the late Senator has allowed a new group to continue giving out the awards and using the name. This foundation, headed by former Alabama Senator Davis Jefferson, bestowed their first honors in a press conference in Washington, D.C. this morning.
Top prize winners included:
The Questionable Science Prize, awarded to the Vetrinary School of the University of Nebraska. In a project on cow urination practices, the school researched whether cattle prefer urinating before entering a stream, while crossing the stream, or after exiting the stream. Results of this three million dollar study were inconclusive for multiple reasons: cows refused to answer the question, grad student researchers were usually found under trees involved in experiments in human reproduction rather than watching the subjects pee, and most fields where the cattle were observed did not contain streams, springs, or rivers.
The International Prize for Frivilous Use of United Nations Funds, was awarded to a joint venture between the University of Texas and La Universidad de Chihuahua (Mexico) for a study on how many border residents thought that the "tortilla curtain" (a security fence dividing the two countries) was really made of tortillas.
The Tower of Babel Award for Increasing Communication, awarded to The Chicago Ebonics Institute. This group spent three point six million dollars to translate text message speak into the Ebonics language and back. For example, they determined that LOL ("laughing out loud") translated best as DBSFS ("Dat be some funny shit").
The Proxmire Memorial Prize for Excellence in Wasting Money, was awarded to The Internal Revenue Service. It was determined that their option on the tax forms allowing taxpayers to donate money to the Presidential Campaign Fund was responsible for more litter (discarded campaign signs, pamphlets, and posters), more wasted television time (commercials, sound bites, and debates), and more apathy than all previous wars combined.