Palin Needs to Come Clean on Earmarks

The public vetting of Governor Sarah Palin raises questions about the private vetting of her by the campaign of Republican nominee Senator John McCain. Every few days something new emerges that raises questions about her qualification to be Vice President of the United States. Some of this is to be expected. Senator McCain has been vetted through two competitive presidential elections (not to mention four statewide campaigns in Arizona). The qualifications of his Democratic opponent, Senator Barack Obama, has been debated and explored thoroughly since he announced his candidacy 19 months ago (in addition to his single statewide campaign in Illinois). Senator Obama’s running mate, Senator Joe Biden, has run for president twice and first ran statewide in Delaware in 1972. Governor Palin’s vetting, instead of taking months, has needed to be crammed into the roughly 60 days between Senator McCain selecting her as his running mate and the November 4th election. So the intensity of her public vetting is not surprising.

What’s dismaying is that the in the frenzy to learn more about the latest political celebrity factual nuggets are being thrown together with falsehoods and irrelevant sideshows. Her five-month old son is hers. That her 17-year old daughter is pregnant is nobody’s business but the family’s. Get over it.

What matters is whether she’s qualified to be a heart beat from the oval office. That means the focus should be on her experience, her integrity and her abilities. Much has been written about her lack of experience. Much has been written about her amazing political abilities and some about her executive experience. What’s likely to take the luster off her candidacy, however, is what’s emerging about her honesty.

Take the bridges. At least two bridges were earmarked for taxpayer dollars in Alaska. Governor Palin supported the “Bridge to Nowhere” until it proved politically unpopular. It’s unclear whether she said “No thanks” before Congress said “Never mind,” but she definitely turned against that bridge only after it was doomed.

Then there’s the “other” bridge. This one, the “Bridge to Wasilla,” officially known as “Don Young’s Way” in honor of the Alaskan Congressman who successfully obtained the earmark. According to the Associated Press, Governor Palin has been supportive of this bridge linking her home town to Anchorage. To be fair, the article notes that she’s “called for a review of the bridge’s financing plans and raised concerns about its financial risks for the state.” But that’s a far cry from opposing it as Senator McCain did, calling it a “monstrosity” that was “terrifying in its fiscal consequences.”

Governor Palin no doubt used the informed those vetting her on behalf of Senator McCain that she opposed the Bridge to Nowhere. But did she tell them she supported it first? Did she tell them she sees the Bridge to Wasilla as something different?

Then there’s the stunning lack of knowledge Senator McCain’s earmark addiction as Governor. Appearing on ABC’s “The View,” Senator McCain claimed Governor Palin had sought no earmarks from Washington since becoming Governor. The fact is that Governor Palin has requested $198 million in earmarks for 2009 and as recently as February of this year. She sought $256 million of these apparently tainted dollars in her first year as Governor, last year. The reality is, no state benefits as much as Alaska from earmarks. Senator McCain rails against the $936 million in earmarks requested by Senator Obama in his first two years in Washington (he asked for no earmarks this year), yet Alaska receives more of these dollars on a per capita basis than any other state — twice as much as the second ranking state according to the Los Angeles Times. 

Did she simply not tell the McCain vetters about this? Did she tell them about her article in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on March 5, 2008 in which she writes, “I am not among those who have said ‘earmarks are nothing more than pork projects being shoveled home by an overeager congressional delegation.'” And “My role at the federal level is simply to submit the most well-conceived earmark requests we can.” And “The federal budget, in its various manifestations, is incredibly important to us (Alaska), and congressional earmarks are one aspect of this relationship.”

Does any of this sound like the crusader against earmarks Senator McCain describes? Did his campaign know she supports “reasonable” earmarks?

Governor Palin has stood by while Senator McCain say she’ll help eradicate earmarks. OK, the first time she let it pass. There was a lot going on. But the second time? The sixth time? The tenth time? 

And did Senator McCain really believe she had sought no earmarks as Governor? If so, who told him so?

Integrity is not just about refraining from making outright lies. It’s also about refusing to be silent in the face of lies — or, to be charitable, misinformation. Governor Palin lets Senator McCain and his campaign continue to misrepresent her position in support of earmarks. She consistently misrepresents her position on earmarks in her own speeches. By doing so, Governor Palin is demonstrating a lack of integrity that raises questions about her qualifications to be Vice President.

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