We’ve all heard by now that Sarah Palin was for the infamous Ted Stevens ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ before she was against it. Would it surprise you to know that there was more than one ‘bridge to nowhere?’
In an article in CQ Politics, Mike Christensen alerts us to a ‘second bridge, more than twice as expensive and just as controversial.’ [Read Palin Less Upset by Alaska’s Other ‘Bridge to Nowhere’ here]
“That project, the Knik Arm bridge, is in Anchorage near her hometown of Wasilla, and its construction would both improve commuting and aid the development of the Matanuska-Susitna, or Mat-Su, Valley where Palin lives.”
“Growing up out there in the valley, I’ve always shared that vision with others that we would have that physical linkage with the municipality of Anchorage,” Palin told the Anchorage Daily News in June. “And I am such a proponent of muscled-up infrastructure in Alaska in general and, you know, beefing up our infrastructure.”
The Knik Arm bridge, Palin said in her June interview, “was a project that so many had counted on receiving fully federal funding of it, with Don Young ’s position formerly as chair of Transportation. You know it was assumed that the feds would be paying for the project. Well, things have changed there on the federal front, haven’t they?”
Now what became of the $400 million from the Stevens bridge?
When the earmarks became a political embarrassment, Congress in 2006 formally withdrew them but left the $454.4 million in Alaska’s hands to spend however it saw fit.
To support this story, here is a blurb from the Anchorage Daily News – Palin touts stance on ‘Bridge to Nowhere,’ doesn’t note flip-flop.
Once Palin spiked the bridge project, the money wasn’t available to Minnesota or other states, however. Congress, chastened by criticism of the Alaska funding, had removed the earmark but allowed the state to keep the money and direct it to other transportation projects.
John McCain, Sarah Palin and the revision of earmark history
Since the selection of Palin, McCain has been boasting about how his running mate is just like him when it comes with challenging ‘wasteful spending.’ McCain often references the ‘bridge to nowhere’ as one of the things that endeared him to Palin. Does he even realize that she and Alaska kept the earmarks? Congress had tried unsuccessfully to redirect the money to New Orleans in order to repair infrastructure damaged by Hurricane Katrina. John McCain did not show up for the vote.
“I’ve championed reform to end the abuses of earmarked spending by Congress. And I did tell Congress, “Thanks, but no thanks” for that bridge to nowhere. If our state wanted to build a bridge, we were going to build it ourselves,” Governor Palin said.
Yes, she did. She said thanks for the money but no thanks to giving it back. We don’t want a bridge, just the money.
Fact: During her 2006 run for governor, Palin backed federal funding for the ‘bridge to nowhere’.
Fact: McCain used this as a symbol of fighting government pork.
The transportation bill did include a total of $223 million (not $233 million, as the ad says) earmarked for the Gravina bridge – $100 million for construction, plus $18.75 million a year for four years, and an additional $48 million to build an access road. McCain tried, unsuccessfully, to add a “sense of the Senate” amendment to the bill, stating a general objection to earmarks; in the end he voted against the legislation. Several months later, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) tried to divert the Gravina funds to a bridge in need of repair over Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans. McCain was not present to vote on Coburn’s amendment proposing this change, which did not pass. Instead, Congress removed Gravina’s earmarks, tossing that money into Alaska’s general transportation pot to be used however the state chose. McCain wasn’t there for that vote, either.
In light of the furor over the “bridge to nowhere,” Alaska’s governor opted to use the money for other pursuits. The bridge was never built, but McCain has been using it as his prime pork example since 2005, even blaming it for the Minneapolis bridge collapse in August 2007. (He cited it as an example of a pet project that diverted money from necessary highway maintenance.)
John McCain appeared on Fox News Sunday where he credited Palin for her maverick style of fighting pork. Notice how McCain doesn’t mention that she kept ALL THE MONEY!
“Yes, the pork barrel project, a $233 million bridge in Alaska to an island with 50 people on it. She, as governor, stood up and said, we don’t need it, and if we need it, we’ll pay for it ourselves. Now, that’s guts. I saw that, and I said, this, this is what we need in Washington.”
Obama speaks out on the earmarks
Barack Obama was at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds in Terre Haute, Indiana on Saturday and had this to say about Sarah Palin and her opposition to earmarks.
“Don’t be fooled. John McCain’s party, with the help of John McCain, has been in charge” for nearly eight years.
“I know the governor of Alaska has been saying she’s change, and that’s great. She’s a skillful politician. But, you know, when you’ve been taking all these earmarks when it’s convenient, and then suddenly you’re the champion anti-earmark person, that’s not change. Come on! I mean, words mean something, you can’t just make stuff up.”
And suddenly [McCain’s] the change agent? Ha [McCain] says, ‘I’m going to tell those lobbyists that their days of running Washington are over.’ Who is he going to tell? Is he going to tell his campaign chairman, who’s one of the biggest corporate lobbyists in Washington? Is he going to tell his campaign manager, who was one of the biggest corporate lobbyists in Washington?”
“I mean, come on, they must think you’re stupid.”
Apparently they do.
The quotes are from Talking points memo