Saturday, September 6, 2008

Earmarks: Mayor Palin vs. Senator Obama

Jake Tapper has a post up about an Obama appearance today in which Obama discussed Sarah Palin's fondness for federal earmarks in her days as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. Among other facts he provides, Tapper quotes an LA Times article that between 2000-2003, Mayor Palin secured $11.9 million in federal earmarks, plus an additional $15 million in regional rail federal funds (some of the earmarks were secured using a lobbyist, who was a former aide to indicted Sen. Ted Stevens and whom Mayor Palin hired).

Tapper notes that Obama has requested earmarks in the amount of $931.3 million in his nearly four years in the Senate (McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds spins as a million dollars per "working day" since Obama has been in the Senate).

Sounds like a lot, right? Obama asked for (I don't know what he actually got, by the way) nearly a billion bucks, while Sarah Palin got just $11.9 mil, or $26.9 mil, depending on how you count that bonus $15 million.

Ok, well, as long as we're going to make these silly comparisons, let's at least do them in a meaningful way. The population of Wasilla has grown a lot since Mayor Palin ran the city, but let's use the city's current population estimate of 7,025. Meanwhile, the 2005 population of Illinois is estimated at 12,875,035 (that's a low estimate for the period that Obama has been in the Senate, since the population is growing).

So let's do some easy calculations, taking Mayor Palin's received earmarks first:
  • $11.9 million divided by 7,025 = $1,694 per person over four years
  • $26.9 million divided by 7,025 = $3,829 per person over four years
Now let's consider Senator Obama's requests:
  • $931.3 million divided by12,875,035 = $72 per person over three years and eight months, which works out to $79 per person over four years
Bottom line: Mayor Palin's received earmarks between 2000-03 were between 21 and 48 times the size of Senator Obama's requested earmarks between 2005-08 once you control for population and the period in office.

Update: I should note, adjusting for inflation would make the Mayor Palin-Senator Obama earmark ratio look even worse for the Mayor, since her earmarks came earlier than his. I haven't adjusted for inflation because the comparison is already so stark.


lerxst said...


However, one of Palin's earmarks was to designed to improve productivity as I pointed out here.

Anonymous said...

Funny thing, as much as I dislike Palin, I don’t citizen her for going after earmarks for her constituents. She was simply living up to the “Alaska First” mentality of the AIP, of which her husband was a member and she clearly supported.

What I find bizarre, is McCain’s skewed rationalization that Palin fits into his “Country First” campaign and that a recipient of a bizarrely large amount of earmarks would be his choice to help cut pork barrel spending. Maybe he figures if Palin is by his side in Washington, she won’t have her hand constantly down his pockets looking for more earmarks. Yep, that is one way to handle out of control spending.

lerxst said...

anon, I agree that there is a bigger issue of hypocrisy, but I also think the earmarks issue is relevant in an of itself because it is emblematic of her history of corrupt practices:

1. hired a lobbyist as Mayor of Wasilla
2. The lobbyist was tied to Abramoff
3. She had particularly egregious earmarks that McCain himself singled out as wasteful.
4. She did this while Wasilla was in need fo basic infrastructure improvement.

Anonymous said...

Why is Obama being a hypocrite about earmarks...Palin cut the federal earmark requests by 50 percent in one year and Obama has only increased his earmarks.

Anonymous said...

Have you had a chance to review the 990 for the Developing Communities Project? It's worth looking at! Obama claims that his position as director of the Developing Communities Project qualifies him to be president where he was a community organizer. Just to put things in perspective - the annual revenue during Obama's best year at the Developing Communities Project was $400,000. The annual budget for Wasilla, Alaska was $13 million. Let's see.... 13mil vs 400,000! You're comparing earmarks - Obama hasn't even don anything to compare his record. Perhaps if Obama had done something, maybe he could have gone after money for his constituents! Obama's resume doesn't qualify him to run a small business, much less our economy!!

Bushfatigue said...

From Talking Points: Palin won a "major upset" in the race for the mayor of Wasilla, 616-413! I think I got more votes running for president of my high school class (and I lost!)

That would be kind of cute, if her experience as mayor of Wasilla wasn't being touted by GOPers as one sign of her preparedness to be back-up commander-in-chief.

Barack Obama took up the argument about the size of Wasilla, pointing out that Wasilla has approximately 50 employees, while his own campaign has 50 times as many, or roughly 2,500.

Some "administrative experience." Plus, she's a complete hypocrite on the issue of earmarks, and was avidly for them, before she was against them. Lastly, Alaska is still fishing for federal money to build the bridge to nowhere, and is currently evaluating different designs.