I told Congress, thanks but no thanks on that bridge to nowhere.
- Governor Sarah Palin
The Alaska governor campaigned in 2006 on a build-the-bridge platform, telling Ketchikan residents she felt their pain when politicians called them “nowhere.” They’re still feeling pain today in Ketchikan, over Palin’s subsequent decision to use the bridge funds for other projects — and over the timing of her announcement, which they say came in a pre-dawn press release that seemed aimed at national news deadlines.
By the time Palin pulled the plug on the Gravina bridge project in September 2007, much of the federal funding for the bridge had already been diverted to other transportation projects. The bridge would cost $398-million, Palin said then, and Alaska was $329-million short.
While running for governor in 2006, though, Palin backed federal funding for the infamous bridge, which McCain helped make a symbol of pork barrel excess.
And as mayor of the small town of Wasilla from 1996 to 2002, Palin also hired a Washington lobbying firm that helped secure $8 million in congressionally directed spending projects, known as earmarks, according to public spending records compiled by the watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste and lobbying documents.
“I told the Congress ‘thanks but no thanks’ for that Bridge to Nowhere,” she said in her convention speech last week.
That’s not what she told Alaskans when she announced a year ago that she was ordering state transportation officials to ditch the project. Her explanation then was that it would be fruitless to try to persuade Congress to come up with the money.
She endorsed the remote project while running for governor in 2006, claimed to be an opponent only after Congress killed its funding the next year and has used the $223 million provided for it for other state ventures. Far from being an opponent of earmarks, Palin hired lobbyists to try to capture more federal funding.
[I]n a questionnaire published in the October 22, 2006, Anchorage Daily News (accessed from the Nexis database), then-gubernatorial candidate Palin answered the question, “Would you continue state funding for the proposed Knik Arm and Gravina Island bridges?” by writing: “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.”
So she was very much for the bridge and insisted that Alaska had to act quickly-the party of Ted Stevens and Don Young might soon lose its majority, after all. By that point, the project was endangered for reasons that had nothing to do with Palin-the bridge had become a national laughingstock, Congress had stripped away the offending earmark, shifting the money back to the state’s general fund, and future federal support seemed unlikely. True, after Palin was sworn into office that fall, her first budget didn’t allocate any money for the bridge. But when the Daily News asked on December 16, 2006, if she now opposed the project, Palin demurred and said she was just trying to figure out where the bridge fit on the state’s list of transportation priorities, given the lack of support from Congress. Finally, on September 19, 2007, she decided to redirect funds away from the project altogether…
These links all come from Think Progress. I thought I’d provide excerpts.