Sarah Palin’s office moved fast last week to protect her (self-proclaimed) standing as a scourge of earmarks. On Friday, Mother Jones published a story reporting that the omnibus spending bill just passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama contained earmarks requested by the Alaska governor, who last year campaigned for the vice presidency as a foe of wasteful government spending, including earmarks. The article also noted that Alaska will receive roughly $140 million in earmarks, which will make it the biggest recipient of earmark spending among all fifty states in per capita terms.
Hours after the article appeared, Palin’s office issued a press release headlined, “Governor Palin Continues Earmark Reform.” The main point: since she took office in 2006, Palin has each year requested fewer earmarks and has recently only put in requests for a handful of projects. In other words, it’s okay to make some earmark requests, just not a lot.
In addition to quickly putting out that press release, Palin’s office went after Jake Tapper, ABC News’ White House correspondent, who had blogged about the Mother Jones story.
Palin’s communications director, Bill McAllister, contacted Tapper and contended, “The governor never said that earmarks should be abolished or that the State of Alaska wouldn’t seek or accept any. Didn’t happen. What she said was that earmark reform was necessary and the state would need to rely less on federal money.”
But neither Mother Jones nor Tapper had asserted that Palin had sought the abolition of earmarks. Both stories referred to her speech at the Republican National Convention, when she boasted that she had “championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. I told the Congress ‘thanks, but no thanks,’ for that Bridge to Nowhere.” (That last claim was repeatedly debunked.) Tapper also noted that Palin, speaking to ABC News’ Charlie Gibson, had said, “The abuse of earmarks, it’s un-American, it’s undemocratic, and it’s not going to be accepted in a McCain-Palin administration. Earmark abuse will stop.” Also in that interview, Palin added that John McCain was a crusader against earmark abuse, and “that’s what I joined him in fighting.” (McCain wants to end the practice of earmarking, not reform it.)
McAllister told Tapper that Palin made 51 earmark requests in FY 2008, totaling $256 million; 31 requests in FY 2009, totaling $197 million; and will request just eight earmarks in FY 2010, totaling $69 million. But when Mother Jones had asked McAllister to detail how many earmarks Palin had requested in the current spending bill, he declined to respond. And McAllister did not tell Tapper that Palin will turn down earmarks requested and won by Murkowski and Young.
Palin remains trapped between her campaign rhetoric and her governing reality. She denounced earmarks as a candidate; she continues to request and accept them as a governor.