The earmarks race

Who gets more earmarks — Alaska or Minnesota?

Minnesota, and it’s not close, according to a database of 2008 earmarks from the Office of Management and Budget. In fact, Minnesota this year is second only to California in earmark money.

Alaska has been in the earmark news because of Sarah Palin’s insistence that she was against the Bridge to Nowhere after she was for it.

Alaska has 119 earmarks so far in 2008, more than Minnesota’s 96. But Minnesota’s total pork — if you buy the notion that earmarks are pork — is $362 million, compared with Alaska’s $155 million.

$195 million of that was the new I-35W bridge. Another $7 million or so was various highway projects.

$1.8 million was directed to the Army Corps of Engineers in Stillwater. One of the sponsors of that project? Rep. Michele Bachmann. “I have taken a bipartisan pledge to not seek any earmarks this year and am working with like-minded Republicans and Democrats to reform this system which has become little more than a political favor factory at taxpayer expense,” Rep. Bachmann says on her Web site.

As for Palin, she sent her U.S. senator — the under-indictment Ted Stevens — almost $200 million worth of earmark requests, according to the Seattle Times.

But unlike Minnesota, the biggest share of Alaska’s “pork” is in health and human services programs, including patient care services and mental health programs.

There is the occasional questionable program for which Alaska received money — the robotic astrobiology program, for example — but it was sponsored by a California politician.

Another sends $2 million for improvements to the Akutan Airport.

This is the Akutan Airport, according to a search of Picasa photo collections:


Although Sen. John McCain says — correctly — that he’s never accepted an earmark, Arizona still gets money via earmarks — $65 million so far this year for such projects as diabetes research, “web-based exhibits” for a museum, and the Tucson basin drainage project. All come by way of Arizona’s other senator — John Kyl (a Republican) — and the state’s evenly-split congressional delegation.

Still, the fact that Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s state is the second-biggest recipient of earmarks could — one imagines — have made for Palin-like scrutiny had McCain chosen Pawlenty as his running mate. “When he stood up to special interests, and fought against earmarks and pork-barrel spending in Congress, John McCain put our country first!” Pawlenty declared when he spoke to the Republican National Convention last week, raising the possibility that those officials who accepted the money didn’t.