35_beluga.thumbnail.jpgAs governor of Alaska, John McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin faced a dilemma. She wanted a federally-funded bridge to her home town of Wasilla, but the project threatened a population of endangered belugas in Cook Inlet. So, Palin fought to keep this genetically distinct and geographically isolated population of belugas unprotected by the Endangered Species Act, publicly urging federal officials not to protect the whales.

Palin had to get tough because the 375 marine mammals were standing (swimming?) in the way of progress. Her home town was slated to get a $600 million bridge, a gift from Alaska’s only congressman, Don Young.

In 2005, as chair of the House Transportation Committee, Don Young approved more than $450 million in earmarks for two bridges in Alaska. One of them was the Bridge to Nowhere, the other was the Bridge to Wasilla. At the time, John McCain denounced Young’s bridge earmarks in the strongest possible terms:

At the time, Palin’s running mate for the Republican ticket, Arizona Sen. John McCain, derided both projects as wasteful. He called Young’s highway bill a "monstrosity" that was "terrifying in its fiscal consequences."

"I want no part of this," McCain said in a July 2005 statement. "This legislation is not — I emphasize not — my way of legislating." [AP]

Palin legislates Don Young’s way. As you might expect, Wasilla’s town lobbyist Steven Silver was an architect of the two-bridge earmark deal.

As governor, Palin vocally supported the Bridge to Nowhere and the second bridge dubbed "Don Young’s Way" in honor of its generous Republican benefactor currently under federal investigation. Palin later denounced the BTN, but only after congress had announced it wouldn’t pay for it.

Palin remains an unflagging supporter of Don Young’s Way, however.

Lindsay Beyerstein

Lindsay Beyerstein