Palin's Project List
Totals $453 Million
Says Record Shows
Drop in Requests
By LAURA MECKLER and JOHN R. WILKE
September 15, 2008; Page A5
Last week, Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain said his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, hadn't sought earmarks or special-interest spending from Congress, presenting her as a fiscal conservative. But state records show Gov. Palin has asked U.S. taxpayers to fund $453 million in specific Alaska projects over the past two years.
These projects include more than $130 million in federal funds that would benefit Alaska's fishing industry and an additional $9 million to help Alaska oil companies. She also has sought $4.5 million to upgrade an airport on a Bering Sea island that has a year-round population of less than 100.
[Gov. Sarah Palin sought more than $130 million in federal funds for the Alaskan fishing industry.]
Gov. Sarah Palin sought more than $130 million in federal funds for the Alaskan fishing industry.
Sen. McCain has made the battle against earmarks and wasteful spending a centerpiece of his campaign. He has never sought earmarks for his state of Arizona and vows to veto pork-barrel spending bills that come to his desk as president, saying these projects should go through normal budget review. And he derides the argument that states often make: that they're funding important projects.
"If they're worthy projects they can be authorized and appropriated in a New York minute," he explained on his campaign bus earlier this year, before Gov. Palin joined the ticket. "If they're worthy projects I know they'd be funded."
During an appearance Friday on ABC's "The View," Sen. McCain said Gov. Palin shared his views, and hasn't sought congressional earmarks. "Not as governor she hasn't," he said.
In fact, in the current fiscal year, she is seeking $197 million for 31 projects, the records show. In the prior year, her first year in office, she sought $256 million for dozens more projects ranging from research on rockfish and harbor-seal genetics to rural sanitation and obesity prevention. By comparison, her predecessor, Gov. Frank Murkowski, sought more than $350 million in his last year in office.
The McCain campaign said Sunday that Gov. Palin's overall record is one of fiscal discipline. "Her record is cutting the number of earmark requests from the previous administration sizably," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds, and she has vetoed wasteful state spending.
As for Sen. McCain's televised comments on Friday, Mr. Bounds added, "If he gave viewers a mistaken impression, it certainly wasn't intentional."
In an interview with ABC News on Friday, Gov. Palin herself suggested she no longer seeks earmarks for her state. "The abuse of earmarks, it's un-American, it's undemocratic, and it's not going to be accepted in a McCain-Palin administration. Earmark abuse will stop."
When pressed about her record as governor, she said: "We have drastically, drastically reduced our earmark request since I came into office. This is what I've been telling Alaskans for these years that I've been in office, is no more."
Alaska's success with earmarks is due in part to the power of Sen. Ted Stevens, the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee. The state's earmark requests stand out in part because its state government is among the wealthiest in the U.S. Flush with oil and gas royalties, it doesn't impose income or sales taxes. In fact, money flows the other way: Every man, woman and child this year got a check for $3,200.
The McCain campaign has also come under fire for saying on the stump and in TV ads that Gov. Palin killed the controversial "Bridge to Nowhere," a $223 million earmark linking the mainland to a sparsely populated island. In fact, she supported the project initially and killed it after it was widely criticized and Congress allowed the state to use the funds for other projects.
On the campaign trail, Gov. Palin has repeatedly attacked Sen. Obama on earmarks. "Our opponent has requested nearly one billion dollars in earmarks in three years. That's about a million for every working day," she said at a rally in Albuquerque, N.M.
Sen. Barack Obama requested a total of $860 million in earmarks in his Senate years, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. That doesn't include $78 million for projects that were national in scope and had been requested by many lawmakers. Sen. Obama halted all earmark requests in fiscal 2009.
It is difficult to compare Sen. Obama's earmark record with Gov. Palin's -- their states differ in size, for instance, and the two candidates play different roles in the process. But using the same calculation that the McCain campaign uses, the total amount of earmarked dollars divided by the number of working days while each held office (assuming a five-day workweek, every week, for both), Gov. Palin sought $980,000 per workday, compared with roughly $893,000 for Sen. Obama.
Mr. Bounds, the McCain campaign spokesman, called this an "apples and oranges comparison" because Sen. Obama sought more than Gov. Palin and because she cut earmark requests.