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McCain vs. Palin on Earmarks

2 min readBy: Gerald Prante

The Los Angeles Times had an article today that described Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's battle to acquire earmarks for the state and the town of Wasilla when she was mayor. We've already documented how Obama and Biden differed on the biggest energy vote of the past decade, where Obama sided with special interests whom he constantly says he will take on. Now we have a similar situation on the Republican side with Palin arguing that she opposes earmarks (as Governor and now as Vice-Presidential candidate) after having requested many of them herself (and were criticized by Sen. McCain). Here's an excerpt from the LA Times article:

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 most ridiculous Palin earmark request:

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.

Looking at their limited fiscal policy records, if Obama and Palin are the new voices that are going to bring change to Washington, maybe the old guard isn't so bad.