Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), a non-partisan, non-profit organization on a mission to eliminate waste, mismanagement and inefficiency in the federal government, has published a background report on Alaska’s infamous “bridge to nowhere” which finally clears the air surrounding what has become the poster child for federal pork projects.

In a press release dated September 11, Tom Schatz, the president of CGAW’s lobby arm, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, stated:

There has been much debate and even more speculation about how funds for the Bridge to Nowhere were first provided, Congress’s role in changing the nature of the funding, and the various options the state of Alaska had to build the bridge. Many in the media and the public are providing an opinion when they should be providing the facts. We intend to continually update this document on our website as additional verifiable information becomes available.

Indeed, many critics of GOP vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin have been misrepresenting the facts about the bridge and her part in the process which led to the cancellation of the project. CGAW’s background report vindicates Palin and shows that it was she, not congress, who should be given credit for killing the bridge. Schatz explains:

Media reports that Congress killed the Bridge to Nowhere are not accurate. The 2006 transportation appropriations bill allowed Alaska to decide whether or not to move forward. Governor Murkowski said yes; Governor Palin said no. Any discussion about the project should begin with facts.

The report also clarifies Palin’s position on the project before and after her election to the Alaska governorship:

As a candidate for governor, Sarah Palin expressed a mixture of support and doubt about the bridge, particularly about how the project would be funded. As governor, she submitted her budget on January 17, 2007 without any money for the bridge. On July 17, 2007, the Associated Press reported that “The state of Alaska on Friday officially abandoned the ‘bridge to nowhere’ project that became a nationwide symbol of federal pork-barrel spending.” Governor Palin said in a statement that “Ketchikan desires a better way to reach the airport, but the $398 million bridge is not the answer.”

CGAW also details the genesis of the project and the attempt by Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn to take the money which would have financed the Alaska bridge and apply it instead to a project of higher priority – a badly needed bridge rebuilding project in Louisiana:

The Bridge to Nowhere was first funded in August 2005 through the 2005 SAFETEA-LU Act through a $223 million earmark inserted by then-House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska). In October, 2005, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) offered an amendment to the fiscal 2006 Transportation Appropriations Act to transfer $75 million in funding for the Bridge to Nowhere, along with money for the Knik Arm Bridge in Alaska, to support the rebuilding of the Twin Spans Bridge in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. His amendment was defeated by a vote of 15-82. Senators Biden (D-Del.) and Obama (D-Ill.) voted against the amendment; Sen. McCain (R-Ariz.) was not present for the vote.

The CAGW report clearly vindicates Gov. Palin and shows that her actions were prudent and responsible to her state’s taxpayers. In her own words, she had always spoken of a link, not necessarily an expensive new bridge, between Ketchikan and Gravina Island. This link could have included a new ferry capable of carrying more vehicles than the current one or a less expensive bridge than the one proposed by Young.This report should silence the anti-Palin forces at least on the issue of the “bridge to nowhere.” Unfortunately, given the irrationality of many of her critics, the facts will not impress them. The truth will, however, impress the majority of voters, most of whom see the relentless attacks on Sarah Palin for what they are – sheer propaganda with no basis in fact.- JP