Gov. Sarah Palin was for the so-called infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” before she was against it, a change of position the GOP vice presidential running mate ignored when she bragged about telling Congress “thanks but no thanks” to the pork barrel project.
Federal funds for the $398 million bridge were tacked into an appropriations bill as an earmark, the practice by which members of Congress get special funding for pet projects. Sen. John McCain opposes earmarks as an avenue for pork barrel and special interest spending.
After McCain introduced her as his choice for vice president on the Republican ticket, Palin talked about her reform credentials, and said she stopped the bridge project as part of an effort to end earmarking.
The Alaska bridge pushed by Sen. Ted Stevens became a symbol of congressional misuse of tax dollars. It would have connected the town of Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents and an airport on it. Ferries and water taxis serve the island now.
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“I have championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress,” Palin said in her vice presidential campaign debut in Dayton, Ohio, on Friday. “In fact, I told Congress, I told Congress ‘thanks but no thanks' on that Bridge to Nowhere.”
“If our state wanted a bridge, I said we'd build it ourselves,” she said.
She didn't talk that way when she was running for governor. The Anchorage Daily News quoted her Oct. 22, 2006, as saying yes, she would continue state funding for the bridge because she wanted swift action on infrastructure projects. “The window is now while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist,” she said.
McCain has used the Alaska bridge as a case study in what's wrong with the way Congress spends money.
According to the Ketchikan Daily News, the bridge issue came up Sept. 20, 2006, during an appearance the gubernatorial candidates made in Ketchikan.
“The money that's been appropriated for the project, it should remain available for a link, an access process as we continue to evaluate the scope and just how best to just get this done,” the newspaper quoted Palin as saying. “This link is a commitment to help Ketchikan expand its access, to help this community prosper.”
The newspaper also reported that she said “I think we're going to make a good team as we progress that bridge project.”
The issue dates back several years. Former Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski, who had been an Alaska senator, wanted it built. Stevens and Rep. Don Young pushed the project through Congress, securing $452 million for two bridges in Ketchikan and Anchorage.
Alaska eventually received about half the money. Palin last fall directed that money to transportation projects statewide instead of for Ketchikan's bridge.