Rove mischaracterized Obama's, Palin's records on earmarks

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In his Wall Street Journal column, Karl Rove falsely asserted that, in contrast with Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. Barack Obama has "ratchet[ed] up his requests [for earmarks] each year he's been in the Senate." In fact, Obama has reportedly requested no earmarks in 2008, while Palin has reportedly requested at least $197 million in earmarks in 2008, which, according to The Seattle Times, amounts to "more, per person, than any other state." Indeed, on a per-capita basis, Palin has requested more than 10 times the amount of earmarks per year than Obama has.

In a September 11 Wall Street Journal column, Fox News contributor Karl Rove falsely asserted that Sen. Barack Obama has "ratchet[ed] up his requests [for earmarks] each year he's been in the Senate," adding that "[i]f voters dislike earmarks -- and they do -- they may conclude Mrs. Palin cut them, while Mr. Obama grabs for more each year." In fact, Obama reportedly requested no earmarks in 2008, while Gov. Sarah Palin reportedly requested at least $197 million in earmarks. Additionally, Rove did not note that Palin, by her own account, has requested hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks for Alaska in her two years as governor. According to The Seattle Times, the $197 million in earmarks she proposed this year amounted to "more, per person, than any other state." Indeed, on a per-capita basis, Palin has requested more than 10 times the amount of earmarks per year than Obama has.

Rove asserted: "Mrs. Palin did seek earmarks as Wasilla's mayor. But as governor, she ratcheted down the state's requests for federal dollars, telling the legislature last year Alaska 'cannot and must not rely so heavily on federal government earmarks.' " He later added: "Mr. Obama has again started a debate he can't win. As senator, he has requested nearly $936 million in earmarks, ratcheting up his requests each year he's been in the Senate. If voters dislike earmarks -- and they do -- they may conclude Mrs. Palin cut them, while Mr. Obama grabs for more each year."

In fact, as Media Matters for America has documented, Palin reportedly requested at least $254 million in earmarks in 2007 and $197 million in 2008, totaling at least $451 million or an average of $330 per person each year. By contrast, since becoming a U.S. senator, Obama has reportedly requested $853.3 million in earmarks for Illinois -- a figure that "exclud[es] earmark requests for national programs, such as breast cancer research" -- or an average of approximately $17 per person, per year. He has reportedly requested a total of $931.3 million in earmarks over his Senate career since 2005, about $5 million below the figure Rove cited (Rove did not give a source for his earmark number). Using the $931.3 million figure, Obama has requested an average of approximately $18 in earmarks per Illinois resident, per year.

From the September 11 edition of The Wall Street Journal:

Then there was Mr. Obama's blast Saturday about Mrs. Palin's record on earmarks. He went at her personally, saying, "you been taking all these earmarks when it is convenient and then suddenly you are the champion anti-earmark person."

It's true. Mrs. Palin did seek earmarks as Wasilla's mayor. But as governor, she ratcheted down the state's requests for federal dollars, telling the legislature last year Alaska "cannot and must not rely so heavily on federal government earmarks." Her budget chief directed state agencies to reduce earmark requests to only "the most compelling needs" with "a strong national purpose," explaining to reporters "we really want to skinny it down."

Mr. Obama has again started a debate he can't win. As senator, he has requested nearly $936 million in earmarks, ratcheting up his requests each year he's been in the Senate. If voters dislike earmarks -- and they do -- they may conclude Mrs. Palin cut them, while Mr. Obama grabs for more each year.

Mr. Obama may also pay a price for his "lipstick on a pig" comment. The last time the word "lipstick" showed up in this campaign was during Mrs. Palin's memorable ad-lib in her acceptance speech. Mr. Obama says he didn't mean to aim the comment at Mrs. Palin, but he deserves all the negative flashback he gets from the snarky aside.

Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal
Person
Karl Rove, Sarah Palin
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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