McCain Had Previously Opposed Earmarks Obtained by Palin

While Sarah Palin has excited the social conservatives there is much in her record which might disturb fiscal conservatives if they looked at her record objectively. Take, for example, Senator John McCain who often disagrees with candidate John McCain, as John Kerry recently pointed outThe Los Angeles Times reports that McCain had been critical of her earmarks before picking her as running mate:

McCain has made opposition to pork-barrel spending a central theme of his 2008 campaign. “Earmarking deprives federal agencies of scarce resources, at the whim of individual members of Congress,” McCain has said.

But records show that Palin — first as mayor of Wasilla and recently as governor of Alaska — was far from shy about pursuing tens of millions in earmarks for her town, her region and her state.

This year, Palin, who has been governor for nearly 22 months, defended earmarking as a vital part of the legislative system. “The federal budget, in its various manifestations, is incredibly important to us, and congressional earmarks are one aspect of this relationship,” she wrote in a newspaper column.

In 2001, McCain’s list of spending that had been approved without the normal budget scrutiny included a $500,000 earmark for a public transportation project in Wasilla. The Arizona senator targeted $1 million in a 2002 spending bill for an emergency communications center in town — one that local law enforcement has said is redundant and creates confusion.

McCain also criticized $450,000 set aside for an agricultural processing facility in Wasilla that was requested during Palin’s tenure as mayor and cleared Congress soon after she left office in 2002. The funding was provided to help direct locally grown produce to schools, prisons and other government institutions, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

Wasilla received $11.9 million in earmarks from 2000 to 2003. The results of this spending are very apparent today. (The town also benefited from $15 million in federal funds to promote regional rail transportation.)

The community transit center is a landmark: a one-story, tile-fronted building with a drive-through garage. Its fleet of 10 buses provides service throughout the region. Mat-Su Community Transit Agency officials say the building was made possible with a combination of federal money and matching gifts from a private foundation.

None of this comes as much of a surprise to me, having long ago given up any hope of fiscal responsibility from Republicans, which is hardly the party of small government as it claims. It might also be argued that seeking out such earmarks is part of the job of the mayor–except that it wasn’t until Palin took the job:

Wasilla had received few if any earmarks before Palin became mayor. She actively sought federal funds — a campaign that began to pay off only after she hired a lobbyist with close ties to Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who long controlled federal spending as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He made funneling money to Alaska his hallmark.

Steven Silver was a former chief of staff for Stevens. After he was hired, Wasilla obtained funding for several projects in 2002, including an additional $600,000 in transportation funding.

That year, a local water and sewer project received $1.5 million, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, which combs federal spending measures to identify projects inserted by congressional members.

Palin’s contradictory statements on the “bridge to nowhere” have been brought up frequently by the media as is also summarized in this report:

When Palin spoke after McCain introduced her as his running mate at a rally in Ohio last week, she made fun of earmarking. She said she had rejected $223 million in federal funds for a bridge linking Ketchikan to an island with an airport and 50 residents, referring to it by its derogatory label: the “bridge to nowhere.”

In the nationally televised speech, she stood by McCain and said, “I’ve championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. In fact, I told Congress thanks, but no thanks, on that bridge to nowhere. If our state wanted a bridge, I said, we’d build it ourselves.”

However, as a candidate for governor in 2006, Palin had backed funding for the bridge. After her election, she killed the much-ridiculed project when it became clear the state had other priorities. She said she would use the federal funds to fill those needs.

This year she submitted to Congress a list of Alaska projects worth $197.8 million, including $2 million to research crab productivity in the Bering Sea and $7.4 million to improve runway lighting at eight Alaska airports. A spokesman said she cut the original list of 54 projects to 31.

“So while Sen. McCain was going after cutting earmarks in Washington,” said Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense, “Gov. Palin was going after getting earmarks.”

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    Wayne says:

    So McCain and Palin haven’t always agreed.  No one makes a big deal about the fact that Biden and Obama disagree about timetables for withdrawing from Iraq, a strategy Obama is pushing, yet Biden opposes. 

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    That is incorrect. Biden has been supporting a timetable. He has been pointing out in recent interviews how Maliki and Bush are also heading in this direction.

    This is hardly just a case of not always agreeing. Opposing earmarks has been one of McCain’s bigger issues, and he has been claiming that Palin has a similar record when the opposite is true.

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