McCain Clueless About Palin’s Record on Earmarks
Sarah Palin spent the week preparing for the ABC interview by being briefed by the McCain campaign on Sarah Palin. Perhaps Senator McCain should have sat in on those briefings.
This was Senator McCain today on the View
Anyway, you heard the part where the Senator claimed that Governor Palin never as governor requested earmarks from the feds.
Well, perhaps he should have touched base with Governor Palin on that
When Palin was announced as McCain’s vice presidential choice, she said: "I have championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress." Democrats have challenged her on the issue ever since and have complained about how she presented her position on one of the controversial earmarks, "the bridge to nowhere."
"We have drastically, drastically reduced our earmark request since I came into office," Palin told Gibson today.
Citing federal figures, Gibson said that Alaska got $231 per person in earmarks in 2008, compared with $22 per person in Illinois, the home of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.
Gibson said Alaska had sought "$3.2 million for researching the genetics of harbor seals, money to study the mating habits of crabs. Isn’t that exactly the kind of thing that John McCain is objecting to?"
Why yes, as a matter of fact, it is
In an earlier television appearance on "The View," McCain said that Palin would help him change Washington, in part by putting a stop to earmarks. When co-host Barbara Walters pointed out that Palin had requested earmarks of her own, McCain inaccurately interjected: "No, not as governor she didn’t."
Palin submitted nearly $200 million in requests this year for earmarked projects.
"You have said continually, since (John McCain) chose you as his vice-presidential nominee, that, ‘I said to Congress, thanks but not thanks,”’ Gibson said in his talk, the first in a series of Palin interviews with the national media and last in the ABC series. "’If we’re going to build that bridge, we’ll build it ourselves.
"Right,” Palin replied, in excerpts released by ABC.
"But it’s now pretty clearly documented,” Gibson said. "You supported that bridge before you opposed it. You were wearing a T-shirt in the 2006 campaign, showed your support for the bridge to nowhere. ”
"I was wearing a T-shirt with the Zip Code of the community that was asking for that bridge,” Palin said. "Not all the people in that community even were asking for a $400 million or $300 million bridge”
and that’s certainly true
"I can take off from the homestead and walk the beach for several miles before I get to any other habitation," says [Mike] Sallee, a fisherman who also operates a small lumber mill. "There’s two main mountain ranges on the island and a big valley of forest and muskeg."
Yet due to funds in a new transportation bill, which President Bush is scheduled to sign Wednesday, Sallee and his neighbors may soon receive a bridge nearly as long as the Golden Gate Bridge and 80 feet taller than the Brooklyn Bridge. With a $223 million check from the federal government, the bridge will connect Gravina to the bustling Alaskan metropolis of Ketchikan, pop. 8,000.
"How is the bridge going to pay for itself?" asks Susan Walsh, Sallee’s wife, who works as a nurse in Ketchikan. She notes that a ferry, which runs every 15 minutes in the summer, already connects Gravina to Ketchikan. "It can get us to the hospital in five minutes. How is this bridge fair to the rest of the country?"
But then, a number of things going on up there weren’t precisely fair to the rest of the country
The Gravina Bridge is one of a record 6,371 special projects, or "earmarks," in the Transportation Equity Act, a six-year $286 billion bill that rivals the recent energy bill in its homage to the pork barrel. No politician better flaunts an ability to bring home the bacon than Alaska’s Don Young. As chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Alaska’s lone congressional representative for 32 years, the elder statesman wrangled $941 million for Alaska in the bill, making Alaska, the nation’s third least populated state, the fourth-biggest recipient of transportation funds. The money for the bill is fed by a gas tax at the pump, but this slush fund isn’t redistributed to all Americans equally: The bill spends $86 per person on a national average; it spends an estimated $1,500 on every Alaskan.
"It seems to me that Don Young let his power go to his head," says Erich Zimmermann, senior policy analyst for Taxpayers for Common Sense. "It’s out of control. Alaska manages to do well because Young and [Sen. Ted] Stevens are in positions to get lots of dollars, but it’s taking advantage of the power they’ve been given. This bill is far too large at a time when deficits are supposed to be important."
Neither Young nor Stevens, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, returned phone calls from Salon. However, the two Alaskans, especially Young, have been loud and proud about their prowess to harness big bucks for transportation. They have repeatedly bragged that new roads and bridges will spur development and industry in Alaska. While speaking to a crowd in Ketchikan last year, Young referred to fellow Republican Stevens’ prowess at rounding up pork, and said, "I’d like to be a little oinker myself." Young was so proud of the House version of the transportation bill that he named it TEA-LU, after his wife, Lu. He has said of the bill, "I stuffed it like a turkey."
Indeed. Included in the bill’s special Alaska projects is $231 million for a bridge that will connect Anchorage to Port MacKenzie, a rural area that has exactly one resident, north of the town of Knik, pop. 22.
Kevin McCarty, policy director of the nonprofit Surface Transportation Policy Project, based in Washington, D.C., says that spending money on projects that won’t be widely used is irresponsible when the country has such urgent transportation problems. Throughout the nation, there are over 160,000 bridges and 34 percent of roads that need repairs, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. For $1 billion, a little more than the amount headed to Alaska, the United States could improve all the traffic lights in the country, reducing congestion by up to 40 percent, according to a 2005 report by the Institute of Transportation Engineers.
Which is what Sarah Palin set out to reform.
"It has always been an embarrassment that abuse of the ear form — earmark process has been accepted in Congress,” Palin said. "And that’s what John McCain has fought. And that’s what I joined him in fighting. It’s been an embarrassment, not just Alaska’s projects. But McCain gives example after example after example. I mean, every state has their embarrassment.
Truly. And this is Alaska’s
The Governor of Alaska gave a misleading version of events over a controversial bridge project in her home state when she made her maiden speech as the presumptive nominee.
Mrs Palin told a cheering audience in Ohio that she had turned down an offer from the US Congress to build the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere", which would have connected Gravina Island with Ketchikan International, an airport in Alaska’s southeast serving just 200,000 passengers a year. Mr McCain routinely cites the £100 million project as a symbol of wasteful central government spending.
As she introduced herself to Republicans and the American public on Friday, the virtually unknown Mrs Palin said: "I 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 it emerged that in a 2006 interview with the Anchorage Daily News during her gubernatorial campaign, Mrs Palin had a different view of the bridge.
Asked "would you continue state funding for the proposed Knik Arm and Gravina Island bridges?" she replied: "Yes. I would like to see Alaska’s infrastructure projects built sooner rather than later. The window is now – while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist."
In the end, despite Alaska’s congressional delegation, the bridge fell through. At which point, Governor Palin, in her principled way, said Thanks, but no thanks
A press release issued by the governor on September 21, 2007 said she decided to cancel state work on the project because of rising cost estimates.
"It’s clear that Congress has little interest in spending any more money on a bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina Island," Palin said in the news release. "Much of the public’s attitude toward Alaska bridges is based on inaccurate portrayals of the projects here."
A lot of that going around, don’t you think?