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Listening to Barack Obama rail about earmarks, you’d think he was a Porkbuster. Far from it, in fact. Obama, who spent the week attacking Sarah Palin, is directing his criticism at the wrong vice presidential candidate.
Rather than criticizing Palin for her role in canceling the Bridge to Nowhere, Obama ought to hold his own running mate to the same standards he demanded of Hillary Clinton earlier this year. Joe Biden’s long-held support for earmarks and opposition to government transparency directly conflicts with Obama’s campaign promises.
Let’s go back six months to March during the heat of the Democrat primary. Obama, who champions himself as a reform, followed John McCain’s lead when he signed on as a supporter of a Senate bill to impose a one-year moratorium on earmarks. Hillary Clinton did the same, but Obama went a step further and asked her to follow his lead in releasing her earmark requests dating to 2001, her first year as a senator.
Here’s the statement from Robert Gibbs, Obama’s communications director, at the time:
Bringing real change requires changing the way we do business in Washington. If Senator Clinton will not agree to join Senator Obama in releasing her earmark requests, voters should ask why she doesn’t believe they have the right to know she wants to spend their tax dollars.
Obama disclosed all of his earmark requests and expected his rival to do the same. But what about Biden? He’s served in the Senate for 36 years. Yet taxpayers have information about his earmark requests for only one of those years — fiscal 2009.
What about the other 35 years? In that time Biden’s son Hunter has been a high-powered lobbyist with a connection to Obama, according to the Washington Post. The newspaper reported that Obama “sought more than $3.4 million in congressional earmarks for clients of the lobbyist son of his Democratic running mate.” Because Biden has refused to release his own earmark requests, there’s no way of knowing how his son’s clients may have fared with Biden’s office.
The Obama campaign’s website promises to “Shine Light on Earmarks and Pork Barrel Spending.” Obama’s plan “will shed light on all earmarks by disclosing the name of the legislator who asked for each earmark, along with a written justification, 72 hours before they can be approved by the full Senate.”
When in his career has Joe Biden ever supported this level of transparency? Even during the March vote on the one-year earmark moratorium, which Obama and Clinton supported, Biden opposed. The measure failed, 71-29, thanks to old bulls like Biden. Time after time and vote after vote, Biden has sided with Washington’s special interests rather than reformers.
Obama’s decision to swear off earmarks this year also stands in direct contrast to his running mate. According to the non-partisan Taxpayers for Common Sense, Biden’s earmarks for 2009 add up to well over $100 million. So while Obama is saying the system is broken, his running mate is feeding at the trough.
Rather than criticizing the other campaign’s VP, Obama should get his own house in order.