Alaska, under Gov. Sarah Palin's leadership, asked for almost $300 per person in pet projects this year from one of John McCain's top adversaries: indicted Sen. Ted Stevens.
That's more per person than any other state received from Congress this budget year, and runs counter to the reformer image that Palin and the McCain campaign are pushing. Other states got an average of $34 of local projects per person this year, according to Citizens Against Government Waste, a Washington-based watchdog group.
The state's earmark requests to Congress in Palin's first year in office exceeded $550 million, more than $800 per resident. This year, the state's requests were reduced to $198 million, about $295 per person, after President Bush demanded a cutback in earmarks. Palin said in her State of the State speech in January that the state needed to reduce its dependence on earmarks.
The McCain campaign said Tuesday that Palin realized that Alaska was too reliant on earmarks and ordered state officials to cut back. It also said Obama requested nearly $1 billion in earmarks over three years for Illinois – a state with nearly 20 times the population of Alaska.
“I have championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress,” Palin said in her vice presidential campaign trail debut last week.
Budget watchdogs allied with McCain have annually railed against Stevens, Alaska's senior senator, and his state's addiction to earmarks. McCain and Stevens are not friends, and they have openly clashed on the Senate floor over earmarks.
As mayor of Wasilla, Palin hired a private lobbyist to help the tiny town secure earmarks from Stevens. The town obtained 14 earmarks, totaling $27 million between 2000-2003, according to data compiled by Taxpayers for Common Sense.
It was reported earlier that Palin's opposition last week to the so-called “Bridge to Nowhere” was not always so firm. In fact, Palin was for the infamous $398 million bridge – to connect the town of Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents and an airport on it – before she was against it, speaking in favor of it during her 2006 race for governor.