John McCain has often criticized lawmakers of pork barreling, supporting wasteful spending simply to demonstrate to constituents they can bring home the bacon. Today, in his most recent attack, McCain accused Senator Hillary Clinton of pushing for wasteful earmarks for her state. But Hillary might not be the only one who likes the taste of pork. Newsday reports,

“Speaking to reporters outside a fundraiser in Los Angeles [yesterday], McCain charged Clinton with larding a recently passed defense appropriations bill with $150 million in home-state earmarks – $43 million of which went to Long Island.

The Arizona Republican, who has fallen from GOP frontrunner to third place in many national polls, chided Clinton for pushing projects ‘the Pentagon had no request for and had no need for.’

He promised to introduce legislation to block senators from earmarking in the future.”

For those political neophytes out there, a brief overview of pork and of congressional votes…For the rest of you, skip to the next paragraph. Clearly, passing legislation is never simple. There are all sorts of complicated reasons to vote for or against a bill that are not always apparent at face value. Senators and representatives sometimes vote in favor of one bill because while they might oppose certain aspects of the legislation, other measures that they support are grouped together in the same bill–so they have no choice but to cast a “yea.” In other instances, a member might vote against a measure he or she essentially supports in some respects in hopes of writing better legislation. And sometimes members trade votes with one piece of legislation for another. So the perception of votes and of pork is difficult, making it very easy to misinterpret votes and pork–especially since pork is usually grouped together with more pressing legislation, which allows members to justify their votes.

While we generally try to avoid including editorials in Reality Check, on March 4 of 2006, the Chicago Tribune, whose editorial board is typically viewed as conservative, ran an editorial “Perfuming the Barnyard” in which it alleged that,

“Arizona Sen. John McCain is sponsoring two interesting pieces of legislation. One mounts a direct assault on congressional earmarks, those little morsels of home district pork that lawmakers slip into unrelated spending bills. The other steers $10 million to the University of Arizona to launch an academic center honoring the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.”

(The rest of the article is included below)

It appears then, that while McCain’s latest assault on pork is on one of his Democratic opponents, Senator McCain is not afraid to support pork projects for his constituents either. His $10 million project is certainly far less than Clinton’s $43 million, but the principle is largely the same.

And, according to New York Magazine on June 13, Senator Clinton has been criticized before for earmarking.

“‘…Hillary Clinton has been working overtime to steer Pentagon funds to the state,’ William Hartung, an arms-trade expert at the New School, just told us. ‘This year alone she has taken credit for two dozen projects worth over $800 million. If she wants to be the commander-in-chief, she should be pushing programs on their merits, not on the basis of pork-barrel politics.’ Hartung calls one project Clinton championed, the presidential helicopter built by Lockheed Martin, a potential ‘burden for taxpayers that may not perform as advertised’ and suggested she’s touted some projects as designed to protect troops in Iraq or Afghanistan when they’re really entirely unrelated. It’s ‘misleading at the least, if not outright unethical,’ he said….”

(more…)

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