Thursday, October 23, 2008

The GOP's Earmark Hypocrisy

Republican lawmakers hate government spending - just absolutely hate it.

Except when they can use it to persuade their constituents to give them another term in office.

In those cases, pork is not the problem, it is the solution.

Senator Mitch McConnell has certainly delivered for this western Kentucky community, where an esplanade called McConnell Plaza wends along the Ohio River waterfront, which is being spruced up with government help.

At a time when home-state projects sought by lawmakers are being condemned by Senator John McCain and others, Mr. McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, boasts in a series of campaign advertisements about how he has showered federal money on towns, airports and universities in Kentucky, like the nearly $60 million he won for the face-lift for downtown Owensboro.

Besides the money for Owensboro and $10 million for the waterfront of a nearby town, Mr. McConnell, a savvy veteran of the Appropriations Committee, secured $3 million for a community youth center in Owensboro and snared the final $10 million to finish an impressive Ohio River bridge linking the area to the Interstate 64 corridor.

“He has brought a lot to Owensboro,” said Vickie Poteat, who promised Mr. McConnell her support as the four-term senator worked a welcoming weekend crowd at Owensboro’s annual apple festival, a family-friendly and calorie-laden event at Reid’s Orchard on the outskirts of town.

Now, working to hold on to his job in what is shaping up as a bad year for Republicans, Mr. McConnell is counting on voters to express their gratitude for the federal largess as he tries to fend off a spirited challenge from Bruce Lunsford, a Democratic businessman with rural roots and a fortune made in health care.


Mr. McConnell’s focus on federal aid illustrates how he and other lawmakers view such legislative earmarks as valuable political currency back home despite their increasingly bad name in Washington. It also shows that in the current hostile environment, Mr. McConnell has decided to focus less on overarching policy issues than on old-fashioned pork.

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