During the unveiling of his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) tried to cast her as a “reformer” and “fiscal conservative.” She boldly claimed that with regard to Sen. Ted Stevens’s (R-AK) infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” she told Congress, “Thanks, but no thanks”:
I championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. 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.
It appears, however, that Palin is lying. As Bradford Plumer first noted, the Anchorage Daily News interviewed Palin during her 2006 campaign for governor. At the time, federal funding for the bridge had been stripped by Congress. They asked if she was in favor of continuing state funding for the project. “Yes,” she responded, noting specifically her desire to renew Congressional support:
Yes. I would like to see Alaska’s infrastructure projects built sooner rather than later. The window is now — while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist.
That assistance never materialized. When she finally canceled the $400 million project, Palin lamented the fact that Congress was not more forthcoming with federal funding. She said in a statement at the time:
Despite the work of our congressional delegation, we are about $329 million short of full funding for the bridge project, and it’s clear that Congress has little interest in spending any more money on a bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina Island.
Palin’s desire to have federal funding directed toward pet projects in Alaska, however, did not diminish. As recently as March 2008 — around the time she first met McCain — her special counsel, John Katz, wrote in the Juneau Empire that despite recognizing increased scrutiny of such spending, Palin was not “not abandoning earmarks altogether.” While McCain expressed high–profile disdain for earmarks, the Palin administration held that:
[E]armarks are not bad in themselves. In fact, they represent a legitimate exercise of Congress’ constitutional power to amend the budget proposed by the president.