McCain, Palin castigate the earmarks she seeks

September 10, 2008 5:38:36 PM PDT
Republican presidential nominee John McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, equated lawmakers' requests for funding for special projects with corruption on Wednesday even though Palin herself has requested nearly $200 million in so-called "earmarks" this year. Campaigning in Virginia, McCain suggested earmarks are particularly shameful at a time when families are struggling with rising food, gas and home mortgage costs. He vowed again to veto any bill that contains such funding.

"I got an old ink pen, my friends, and the first pork barrel-laden earmark, big-spending bill that comes across my desk, I will veto it. You will know their names. I will make them famous and we'll stop this corruption," McCain said during a rally at a park in suburban Washington, D.C.

Palin has sought $197 million worth of earmarks for 2009, down about 25 percent from the $256 million she sought in the 2008 budget year. As mayor of tiny Wasilla, Alaska, she hired a lobbyist to seek federal money for special projects. Wasilla obtained 14 earmarks, totaling $27 million, between 2000-2003, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama hasn't asked for any earmarks this year. The Illinois senator sought $311 million in such funding last year. McCain, an Arizona senator, doesn't seek earmarks for his state.

Undaunted by his running mate's ties to earmarks, McCain said: "I've fought corruption, and it didn't matter if it was Democrats or Republican, and so has Sarah Palin."

Palin said she has "championed earmark reform" as governor and "reformed the abuses of earmarks in our state." Now, she said, she is ready to join McCain in Washington "so we can end the corrupt practice of abusive earmarks after all."

The practice of earmarking - lawmakers inserting special requests for money for home-state projects in spending bills - is a longtime anti-Washington bugaboo for politicians running for office. Many find that, once in office, requests from constituents for help on a particular project is too tough to resist and support bringing that kind of money home to their states and districts.

"John McCain's idea of changing Washington is a vice-presidential candidate who, as governor, requested more pork per person than any other state in the country," said Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor.

Still, McCain and Palin's attack on earmarks in the face of those she has requested joins other statements by the vice presidential nominee that have been widely debunked:

-Palin routinely claims to have put an end to Alaska's infamous "bridge to nowhere," even though she supported the project during her gubernatorial campaign and turned against it only when it became a national embarrassment and Congress threatened to cut its funding.

-Palin has claimed that she put the governor's jet on the Internet auction site eBay, and McCain has said it was sold at a profit. However, the jet was never sold via eBay.

-Palin says she eliminated the governor's chef from the state budget, yet she gave the person another job in state government.

McCain aides said Thursday's event attracted the biggest non-convention crowd of his campaign, with local officials reporting an estimated 23,000 at the event. People filled the grass and hillsides to make a sea of red, as the state GOP exhorted everyone coming to wear the hue in a sign of support for the party, and they often drowned out the candidates' words with chanting.

Judging by shouts from the crowd, the enthusiasm seemed driven primarily by the presence of Palin. She has electrified both McCain's campaign and the party since he announced her as his running mate almost two weeks ago.

The reaction was significantly different in Philadelphia.

McCain made a solo trip for a round-table discussion with half a dozen female business leaders at the Down Home Diner. The appearance, inside a bustling indoor downtown marketplace, formed a sharp contrast with the earlier joint show, as the arrival of both McCain's bus outside and him inside was greeted by loud Obama crowds.

The Republican could barely be heard over the Obama cheers by the women he met, or by reporters when McCain made a statement after.

"Pennsylvania is a battleground state, as we can tell," he said with a small smile.

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