What do Hurricane Katrina, Sarah Palin and Pork and have in common?
Ted Stevens – he ignored it, loves her and is good at putting it on Alaska’s table.
Monday, August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina (thank you to @Sophmom of DotCalm for the the typo correction) hit New Orleans. As the storm blew through leaving a trail of death and devastation there was plenty of finger pointing and blame going round, much of it targeted an out of touch republican controlled congress and President. It was clear New Orleans and the Gulf Coast needed money for rebuilding and infrastructure repairs and the power and pork brokers were feeling the heat.
What to do?
Alaska, “the richest state in the Union in cash reserves,” is also a pork fed state and on the 2005 dinner table were 2 bridge projects to remote underpopulated areas worth $442 million. Republicans were anxious to cut spending, and the most likely target was an already approved bloated $286 billion highway bill which included about 6,000 other porky pet projects. Cutting medicaid and food stamps (more) just didn’t seem right after Katrina, even to the right.
Suddenly it looked like Alaska was going to be forced to go pork free and that made Senator Ted Stevens mighty angry. How dare money earmarked for his state go to the Gulf Coast when other states were able to keep their pork? He did what any sleazy seasoned politician would do – he threatened to take his toys and go home resign in what must have been an unholy temper tantrum because congress did something they rarely do – they gave Alaska all the money with no strings attached. They didn’t have to build the bridges, but they could keep all the money.
$442 million that could have gone into rebuilding the Gulf Coast* went to Alaska because Ted Stevens threatened to quit.
That was 2005 and Ted and Sarah were the best of friends. She headed up his “Ted Stevens Excellence in Public Service, Inc.,” a 527 group. In 2006 when she was running for Governor he endorsed her. She defended the bridge** in her campaign. It was only after she became Governor that she reversed her position.
But it really didn’t matter – Alaska had the money that could have gone to the Gulf Coast and they could do whatever they wanted to do with the funds. So over the past 2 weeks when Sarah Palin says (over and over and over and over again*** and again****):
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.
“Thanks, but no thanks” is not straight talk – it is a flat out bold faced lie. A lie that took money that could have been used to rebuild and safeguard our vulnerable Gulf Coast.
John “I’m Sarah’s bitch” McCain loves to tell how Sarah said “no thanks” and he must know he is lying. You only need to watch his 2007 primary campaign commercial for “straight talk” proof.
Remember this McCain ad from last fall? Watch and listen to the opening line.
* To get a sense of what 442 million could have paid for – check out the DHA News Release of Funding President Bush requested for Katrina repairs.
**In 2006 when the Anchorage Daily News asked Gubernatorial candidate Sarah Palin whether she would continue state funding for the Knik Arm and Gravina Island (the infamous bridge to nowhere) she answered:
“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.”
*** Apparently today, speaking in her home state of Alaska, she dropped the reference.
Two ‘Bridges to Nowhere’ Tumble Down in Congress, New York Times, Carl Hulse, Published: November 17, 2005