Drudge further distorted Hill article that itself made misleading comparison regarding Clinton's reported earmark request

››› ››› SARAH PAVLUS

The Hill made a misleading comparison between the amount in earmarks reportedly requested by Sen. Hillary Clinton for 2009 and the amount secured by other senators for the 2008 fiscal year in reporting that Clinton "has requested nearly $2.3 billion in federal earmarks for 2009, almost three times the largest amount received by a single senator this year." The Hill did not report which senator had requested the most in earmarks for 2009 -- presumably because senators are not required to make their earmark requests public, a detail not noted until the 22nd paragraph of the Hill article. The Drudge Report further distorted the Hill article to falsely claim: "Clinton requests $2.3B in earmarks -- three times largest amount ever by Senator!"

In an April 28 article, headlined "Clinton: $2.3B in earmarks," The Hill reported, "Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has requested nearly $2.3 billion in federal earmarks for 2009, almost three times the largest amount received by a single senator this year." The article, by Manu Raju and Kevin Bogardus, thus compared the amount Sen. Hillary Clinton reportedly requested in earmarks for 2009 to the amount secured by other senators for the 2008 fiscal year, despite later acknowledging that "Clinton secured $342 million in earmarks" for 2008, compared with Sen. Thad Cochran's $837 million. Compounding the effect of the misleading comparison, Raju and Bogardus did not report where Clinton's reported 2009 request ranked in the lineup of senatorial earmark requests for 2009. Indeed, in the 22nd paragraph of the article, the authors noted that "Senate rules do not require members to disclose their requests."

Further undermining the article's premise -- that it is newsworthy that Clinton's reported 2009 earmark request exceeded earmark receipts in 2008 by other senators -- Raju and Bogardus reported: "Steve Ellis, a vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense, a group critical of earmarks, said the amount [Clinton requested] is not unusual for a senator hailing from a big state who has long secured pet projects." The writers also noted that the Appropriations Committee "will likely add just a fraction" of the requested earmarks to the Appropriations bill.

On April 29, the Drudge Report distorted the first paragraph of the Hill article to falsely claim: "Clinton requests $2.3B in earmarks -- three times largest amount ever by Senator!"

The April 28 Hill article in its entirety:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has requested nearly $2.3 billion in federal earmarks for 2009, almost three times the largest amount received by a single senator this year.

The Democratic presidential candidate's staggering request comes at a time when Congress remains engaged in a heated debate over spending federal dollars on parochial projects.

It also has gained traction on the campaign trail. Presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), a longtime foe of earmarks, has called for eliminating what he dubs "wasteful Washington spending." Democratic front-runner Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) has spurned earmarks, seeking no funds for pet projects in the upcoming fiscal year.

Yet Clinton is continuing to request billions for earmarks, most of which will go to her home state.

The money is needed for homeland security, emergency response and health projects throughout New York, according to documents provided by her office.

The total amount Clinton requested greatly surpasses the $837 million secured last year by Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee who took home the largest dollar amount of earmarks in the current fiscal year's spending bills. In those bills, Clinton secured $342 million in earmarks.

Clinton's huge earmark requests have some speculating that the former first lady is preparing for a soft landing should she lose the Democratic primary to Obama and refocus her energy on winning a third Senate term.

Steve Ellis, a vice president at Taxpayers for Common Sense, a group critical of earmarks, said the amount is not unusual for a senator hailing from a big state who has long secured pet projects.

"For her to all of a sudden change course would look opportunistic," Ellis said.

"There's a decent chance that she is going to remain the senator from New York, and she needs to do what she can to stay the senator from New York."

Obama has released all the earmark requests he offered since being elected to the Senate in 2004, which totaled roughly $740 million over three years. Obama has also criticized Clinton for not disclosing her requests. Her office would not say how much she requested in previous years.

The documents outlining her most recent requests, however, are broadly defined, with few details on precisely where most of the money would go.

For instance, Clinton asked for an additional $750 million for a homeland-state grant program and another $125 million for an urban-area security initiative in the upcoming homeland security appropriations bill. But it does not say which projects the grants would pay for.

Clinton's office justified the requests, saying the money is needed after a "staggering" reduction in the Bush administration's budget proposal that left states and localities "ill prepared to prevent another major terrorist attack."

In addition, Clinton is asking for grants of up to $400 million for interoperable emergency communication, $335 million for emergency planning, $190 million for port security and $225 million for transit security.

The senator also wants appropriators on the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies subcommittee to add $10 million to bolster the nation's emergency 911 network and defense appropriators to add $3.2 million for a program geared toward transitioning members of the National Guard to the construction industry.

In the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education funding bill, Clinton asks for $231 million to go toward monitoring the health of people affected by the collapse of the World Trade Center.

Philippe Reines, a spokesman for Clinton, said some of the funding for first responders and homeland security is based on need and risk, so New York would receive a portion of the money but so would other parts of the country.

The most specifics the office provided related to her request for the Military Construction spending bill. In that bill, she wants appropriators to provide $7 million to complete construction of a facility at the Air National Guard base in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., $6.6 million to construct a fire station in Fort Drum, N.Y., and $8.5 million for a dining facility and community center at a Niagara Falls Air Reserve base.

The deadline for earmark requests closed Friday, according to Appropriations Committee aides.

Chairman Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) does not limit requests for earmarks, but the committee will likely add just a fraction of these earmarks.

Those decisions won't be made until later this spring or early summer after both chambers agree on the overall budget limits for the federal government. Senate rules do not require members to disclose their requests.

Earmarks take on added importance in the election year, as lawmakers point to the pet projects to tout their effectiveness in Congress. But they have been caught in the roiling debate over whether earmarks are a waste of taxpayer dollars, a debate that has intensified after pet projects have been linked to corruption cases in Congress.

Each of the three presidential candidates has claimed to be the candidate of fiscal responsibility.

Clinton, Obama and McCain voted for an amendment, sponsored by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), that would establish a one-year earmark moratorium. That amendment failed to pass, however, when it came to a vote in March.

Clinton said she would limit her requests this year to healthcare resources for victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, as well as for national security and homeland security needs, according to Reines.

"The funds requested are for critical needs for New York and America, and are appropriate and necessary," Reines said.

Last year, Obama took in $91 million while McCain earned nothing because he did not request any projects, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense.

UPDATE: The Clinton campaign posted a response to the Hill article at 5 p.m. ET on April 29.

Posted In
Economy, Budget
Network/Outlet
The Hill
Stories/Interests
Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.