Monday, September 1, 2008

Palin and the Bridge to Nowhere

Reuters is reporting that the "Bridge to Nowhere" applause line used by Palin may be more controversial than it appeared at first blush. Palin originally supported the bridge during her campaign for governor, then reversed herself once in office.

The bridge itself was obviously a prime example of porkbarrel spending in Washington. Perhaps it looked like a great idea in Ketchikan, but it is pretty easy to see why taxpayers elsewhere were less keen on the project.

Palin especially risks charges of hypocrisy over the fact that she kept the federal money even after holding the big press conference to announce what a waste it was. That is going to strike a lot of voters (and taxpayers) as being two-faced, and not at all in sync with her image as a fresh-faced reformer.

In the city Ketchikan, the planned site of the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere," political leaders of both parties said the claim was false and a betrayal of their community, because she had supported the bridge and the earmark for it secured by Alaska's Congressional delegation during her run for governor.

The bridge, a span from the city to Gravina Island, home to only a few dozen people, secured a $223 million earmark in 2005. The pricey designation raised a furor and critics, including McCain, used the bridge as an example of wasteful federal spending on politicians' pet projects.

When she was running for governor in 2006, Palin said she was insulted by the term "bridge to nowhere," according to Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein, a Democrat, and Mike Elerding, a Republican who was Palin's campaign coordinator in the southeast Alaska city.

"People are learning that she pandered to us by saying, I'm for this' ... and then when she found it was politically advantageous for her nationally, abruptly she starts using the very term that she said was insulting," Weinstein said.
The state, however, never gave back any of the money that was originally earmarked for the Gravina Island bridge, said Weinstein and Elerding.

In fact, the Palin administration has spent "tens of millions of dollars" in federal funds to start building a road on Gravina Island that is supposed to link up to the yet-to-be-built bridge, Weinstein said.

"She said 'thanks but no thanks,' but they kept the money," said Elerding about her applause line.