Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

  John McCain blasted Sarah Palin's earmarks as pork

When John McCain introduced his running mate last Friday, he described her as a reformer like himself. McCain and Sarah Palin both stressed her opposition to earmarks, in particular Sen. Stevens' infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" for Ketchikan, Alaska. Said Palin on Friday:

"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."

The picture of Palin was false, as we quickly learned. She had defended the BTN while campaigning for governor in 2006, and had turned against it only once she was in office - after it became clear the FBI might well indict Stevens for corruption. And Palin kept the $223 million for the BTN to use it for other pet projects instead.

We've also learned that in 2000, as mayor of Wasilla, Palin hired an expensive lobbyist who secured $27 million for various projects including $15 million for a rail line from her small town to a ski resort. The projects were classic pork in the tradition of Sen. Stevens.

"She was hungry for earmarks just like everybody else," said Larry Persily, who worked at the Alaska state office in Washington, D.C., until earlier this year. "Everyone was feeding at the trough."

Today LA Times reports that at the time McCain complained about those Wasilla earmarks as wasteful pork. That is to say, years before he met Sarah Palin and decided that she's his "soul-mate".

Three times in recent years, McCain's catalogs of "objectionable" spending have included earmarks for this small Alaska town, requested by its mayor at the time -- Sarah Palin...

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...

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.

Well, maybe Palin became an anti-pork crusader after the "Bridge to Nowhere" debacle? Well, no. Palin claims that as governor she cut way back on earmark requests, but the Seattle Times showed that she's greatly exaggerating her cutbacks. This year she submitted to Congress via Sen. Stevens a list of projects she'd like funded, to the tune of $197.8 million. That amounts to $300 per resident of her state – "more, per person, than any other state" says the Seattle Times, at a time that Alaska is flush in cash from oil revenues.

Indeed Palin continued to defend earmark requests in public until McCain selected her. Here she is in an op-ed from March 5, 2008 in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

I feel compelled to respond to your gross mischaracterization (March 2, "Earful of Earmarks") of my position on congressional earmarks.

I am not among those who have said "earmarks are nothing more than pork projects being shoveled home by an overeager congressional delegation."


The federal budget, in its various manifestations, is incredibly important to us, and congressional earmarks are one aspect of this relationship.

But Sarah Palin is nothing if not adept at repackaging her political "beliefs" in order to maximize positive publicity for herself. As Andrew Halcro points out, in 2007 Palin reversed her position on funding the "Bridge to Nowhere" with a press release that went out astoundingly early in the morning.

The reason for sending out the 5am press release was to hit east coast newscycles to gain maximum national attention for the move. The move garnered big news coverage nationwide.

The Ketchikan Daily News later reproached Palin for failing to inform any local officials of her decision before this grab for national accolade. What's more, locals noticed that Palin suddenly switched her terminology for the bridge.

According to the Associated Press, when she was running for governor in 2006, Palin said she was insulted by the term "bridge to nowhere," according to Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein, a Democrat, and Mike Elerding, a Republican who was Palin's campaign coordinator in the southeast Alaska city.

"People are learning that she pandered to us by saying, I'm for this' ... and then when she found it was politically advantageous for her nationally, abruptly she starts using the very term that she said was insulting," Weinstein said.

The proper terminology for the kind of reformer Sarah Palin represents is "phony".

crossposted at

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