Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston





Friday, September 5, 2008

Sarah Palin and Earmarks

Since McCain announced her last week as his vice presidential running mate, his campaign has worked to paint Palin as a crusader who took on two of the most successful appropriators in the history of Congress: her fellow Republicans and titans of Alaska politics, Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young. But Palin also sought earmarks, both as a governor and a small-time mayor -- a position that is at odds with McCain's zero tolerance on such spending.

So what exactly is Palin's position on earmarks? Is it an opportunistic evolution mirroring a growing national distaste for the spending practice? Or is it true conviction that Alaska needed to be weaned from such federal spending?

Here's what she said in the February interview:

"My position has been in trying to read that writing on the wall, and understanding there's going to be reform," she said. "We can either put our heads in the sand and ignore the reforms that are coming or we can be proactive and get Alaska in the position of being more productive, contributing more and becoming less reliant on the federal government."

And here's how the McCain campaign sees it: Palin "doesn't mind bucking the establishment to get things done," said her campaign spokeswoman, Maria Comella. "As vice president, she is committed to working with John McCain to end this wasteful, earmark system that she has seen corrupt leaders in Alaska."

Unlike McCain, though, Palin has not been a purist on earmarks. As Alaska governor, she sought and obtained hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks for the state, and as mayor of Wasilla, she hired lobbyist and former Stevens staffer Steve Silver to steer federal money to her town. Some of her own earmark projects even landed on McCain's list of questionable congressional pork barrel spending when she served as mayor from 1996 to 2002.

"I think she will fit in really well in Washington D.C. because she is already used to saying one thing and doing another," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a key adviser to Sen. Barack Obama and one of the only Democrats who refuses to ask for earmarks.

"Not only has she taken them, she has gorged on earmarks," McCaskill said. "It's not what you say, it's what you do."


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