September 28, 2008

I was listening to CNN this afternoon, following the breaking financial news, when the CNN Special Investigations Unit came on with a couple of interesting reports.

First, there has been derisive reporting on the Road to Nowhere in Alaska that leads to where the Ketchikan Airport Bridge (aka Bridge to Nowhere) was supposed to be built. CNN reported that the contract for the road had been signed before Gov. Palin took office, and under the rules governing the transportation money, Alaska was stuck with the road construction. That says more about why earmarks are bad business and why government contracting rules need change more than it says about the State of Alaska or any of its recent governors. Gov. Palin did cancel the bridge.

Second, the reporter expressed surprise that Sen. Joe Biden has been pushing the bridge as a campaign issue when his own record is not so clear of targets. In the last fiscal year, Sen. Biden requested 116 earmarks totaling $342 million. The earmarks include the Indian River Inlet Bridge connecting Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach to avoid forcing tourists having to take a 35 minute detour. The two small Delaware communities currently have a bridge, but it is safe and there is time to put the project in line behind more urgent needs - unless you are Joe Biden and you want to jump to the head of the line. I could show the Senator a few old bridges in northeast Washington that need replacement because they are about to fail, with severe load limits posing a threat to public health and safety.

Oh, and by the way, Sen. Biden and Sen. Obama also voted for the transportation bill authorizing the Bridge to Nowhere. They also voted to oppose re-directing the money from the Ketchikan bridge to repair a bridge in Louisiana damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Sen. McCain wasn’t in the Senate that day, so we don’t have his vote on the record, but he has a very clear record of opposing earmarks.

People who live in glass houses need to be careful before they start pitching stones. That’s a lesson worth remembering for anyone in a hot political campaign.