Novak cites Palin's purported "loathing for earmarks," but not her repeated requests for them

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

In his syndicated column, Robert Novak claimed that Gov. Sarah Palin "shares [Sen. John] McCain's loathing for earmarks, which are ingrained in the corruption-tainted politics of Alaska." But contrary to Novak's assertion that Palin has a "loathing for earmarks," she has repeatedly sought and requested hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks as governor of Alaska, and reportedly hired a D.C. lobbying firm to acquire tens of millions of dollars in earmarks while serving as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.

In his September 3 nationally syndicated column, Robert D. Novak claimed that Gov. Sarah Palin is an "ideal running mate" for Sen. John McCain because "she shares McCain's loathing for earmarks, which are ingrained in the corruption-tainted politics of Alaska." Yet, contrary to Novak's assertion that Palin has a "loathing for earmarks," Palin has repeatedly sought and requested hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks as governor of Alaska, and, according to The Washington Post, which publishes Novak's column, hired a D.C. lobbying firm to acquire tens of millions of dollars in earmarks while serving as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. Indeed, as mayor, Palin reportedly requested some of the very same earmarks McCain criticized at the time. Further, in a March 5 op-ed in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Palin wrote that, as governor in 2008, she "requested 31 earmarks, down from 54 in 2007," and that "the federal budget, in its various manifestations, is incredibly important to us, and congressional earmarks are one aspect of this relationship."

Moreover, Palin specifically distanced herself from those who denounce earmarks, writing: "I am not among those who have said 'earmarks are nothing more than pork projects being shoveled home by an overeager congressional delegation.' I recognize that Congress, which exercises the power of the purse, has the constitutional responsibility to put its mark on the federal budget, including adding funds that the president has not proposed." She continued:

Accordingly, my administration has recommended funding for specific projects and programs when there is an important federal purpose and strong citizen support.

This year, we have requested 31 earmarks, down from 54 in 2007. Of these, 27 involve continuing or previous appropriations and four are new requests. The total dollar amount of these requests has been reduced from approximately $550 million in the previous year to just less than $200 million.

I believe this represents a responsible approach to the changing situation in Congress. Some misinterpret this as criticism of our congressional delegation.

In fact, it responds to messages from the Congressional delegation and the Bush administration. They have told us that the number of earmarks in the federal budget will be reduced and that there must be a strong federal purpose underlying each request.

The Seattle Times reported in a September 3 article that "documents Palin's office released to The Seattle Times on Tuesday show her cuts in earmarks were far more modest than she claimed" in her March 5 News-Miner op-ed. From the Times article:

She also said in the News-Miner that she had slashed the state's earmark requests by nearly two-thirds, down from $550 million in 2007 to just under $200 million.

Palin's earmarks request came just days after President Bush promised in his State of the Union address to veto any spending bills from Congress unless lawmakers cut earmarks in half.

Yet documents Palin's office released to The Seattle Times on Tuesday show her cuts in earmarks were far more modest than she claimed. Last year, Palin requested $254 million in earmarks, not $550 million, so her cuts this year were only 22 percent, not the 63 percent she claimed.

Karen Rehfeld, Palin's Office of Management and Budget director, said she needed to look into the discrepancy between her boss's written remarks and the earmark tally provided by the staff. "We want to make sure we don't have a problem," Rehfeld said.

In a September 3 article headlined, "McCain had criticized earmarks from Palin," the Los Angeles Times reported that "[t]hree times in recent years, McCain's catalogs of 'objectionable' spending have included earmarks for this small Alaska town [Wasilla], requested by its mayor at the time -- Sarah Palin." From the article:

McCain has made opposition to pork-barrel spending a central theme of his 2008 campaign. "Earmarking deprives federal agencies of scarce resources, at the whim of individual members of Congress," McCain has said.

But records show that Palin -- first as mayor of Wasilla and recently as governor of Alaska -- was far from shy about pursuing tens of millions in earmarks for her town, her region and her state.

[...]

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 Post reported in a September 2 article that Palin "employed a lobbying firm to secure almost $27 million in federal earmarks for a town of 6,700 residents while she was its mayor, according to an analysis by an independent government watchdog group." The Post added that the lobbying firm "began working for Palin in early 2000, just as federal money began flowing." From the article:

In fiscal 2000, Wasilla received a $1 million earmark, tucked into a transportation appropriations bill, for a rail and bus project in the town. And in the winter of 2000, Palin appeared before congressional appropriations committees to seek earmarks, according to a report in the Anchorage Daily News.

Palin and the Wasilla City Council increased Silver's fee from $24,000 to $36,000 a year by 2001, Senate records show.

Soon after, the city benefited from additional earmarks: $500,000 for a mental health center, $500,000 for the purchase of federal land and $450,000 to rehabilitate an agricultural processing facility. Then there was the $15 million rail project, intended to connect Wasilla with the town of Girdwood, where Stevens has a house.

The Washington trip is now an annual event for Wasilla officials.

In fiscal year 2002, Wasilla took in $6.1 million in earmarks -- about $1,000 in federal money for every resident. By contrast, Boise, Idaho -- which has more than 190,000 residents -- received $6.9 million in earmarks in fiscal 2008.

All told, Wasilla benefited from $26.9 million in earmarks in Palin's final four years in office.

From Novak's September 3 column:

Gender politics aside, she [Palin] is an ideal running mate. On the one hand, she shares McCain's loathing for earmarks, which are ingrained in the corruption-tainted politics of Alaska. She also has a good record in fighting off big oil, which plays a major role in the politics of Alaska.

Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Person
Robert Novak, Sarah Palin
Stories/Interests
2008 Elections
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