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Candidates' Earmarks Worth Millions
"An increasing number of individual members recognize that a moratorium is needed until significant reforms are made to the earmark process," Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a longtime earmark opponent, said yesterday.
The new report showed that Clinton co-sponsored a $1.6 million earmark to fund technology development by a defense contractor and steered $3 million to the Rochester Institute of Technology for a fuel-cell-technology program. Another $1.6 million earmark she supported went to Weidlinger Associates, a New York engineering consulting firm working on shock testing for naval vessels.
Obama, meanwhile, helped steer $3.4 million to the Rock Island Arsenal for a military fire and police building, and was the sole sponsor of a measure seeking $750,000 for an education initiative at Benedictine University in Illinois.
McCain, who has helped lead efforts to strip some earmarks from Senate bills, has not focused on the money headed to his home state. Other Arizona lawmakers secured more than $214 million in pet projects in fiscal 2008 spending bills.
The candidates "do illustrate the broad spectrum of attitudes toward earmarks in Congress," said Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Clinton stands behind her earmarked projects as a sign of her work for constituents.
"Senator Clinton is very proud to have helped New York-based projects that train nurses, improve our hospitals, help those suffering from 9/11-related health ailments, bolster our national and homeland security, and provide our brave men and women in uniform with the resources they need to achieve their mission, while keeping them safe," said Philippe Reines, Clinton's spokesman.
Clinton's $342 million total consists almost entirely of projects she supported with other New York lawmakers. On her own, she secured one $98,000 earmark.
Her total is unusually large for someone who does not serve on the Senate Appropriations Committee, where earmarks are doled out, usually on a members-first basis. Of the 10 largest recipients, Clinton is the only senator not on the committee, the report found.
Obama's criticism of Washington's insider culture is a linchpin of his campaign; he supports earmarks only for public entities such as schools and hospitals. He secured $3.3 million in earmarks through his own sponsorship, and collected $88 million in concert with other Illinois lawmakers.
Since last year, he has publicly released the letters he submits to the Appropriations Committee seeking support for the spending items, but has not released those submitted to the committee in 2005 and 2006.
On the campaign trail, Obama has specifically mentioned his ability to work across the aisle "on opening up and creating more transparency in government," so that all government spending is "posted on a searchable database."
Bill Burton, his campaign spokesman, said Obama's level of disclosure exceeds Clinton's. "We began running for president in 2007 and, unlike our opponent, we thought it was appropriate to release our earmarks," he said.
McCain has used his opposition to earmarks to rally conservatives reluctant to support his presidential campaign, regularly criticizing Clinton for such spending.
He attacked her Woodstock museum request, saying at an October GOP debate that he was "tied up" and unable to attend the 1969 music festival -- a sly reference to his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. "That kind of thing is going to stop when I'm president of the United States of America," McCain said earlier this month of Clinton's earmarks.
Her item was rejected in a Senate vote last fall, among the few earmarks that were turned down in a House or Senate vote.
Staff writer Matthew Mosk contributed to this report.