Palin's Earmarks Were For Scientific and Environmental Research

Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin might dispute the human contribution to climate change, oppose embryonic stem cell research, and promote creationism, but in other ways she has been an advocate for science. As I wrote last week, while on a few issues bi-partisan support for science breaks down, on other issues, including financing for scientific research, many Republicans are leading advocates.

Palin, for example, as Governor championed several earmarks requests to fund environmental research in her state. From the Politico:

Many others, though, are of exactly the sort that McCain has made a career of mocking--like animal research.

"We're not going to spend $3 million of your tax dollars to study the DNA of bears in Montana," McCain has said during this year's campaign, referring to a study he's mocked for years of whether grizzlies need to keep their status as an endangered species.

Palin, meanwhile, has requested $3.2 million to be spent in part researching the "genetics of harbor seals," in one of the state's many requests for federal funding of research into Alaska's fauna.

She's seeking $1 million, for instance, for a project to investigate rockfish fisheries, a request that, according to the Alaska document, was presented to and refused by Congress last year.

"Our state's economy depends a certain amount on tourism...and there are a lot of charter fishermen who have clients that want to come up fish for halibut, and likewise when they're fishing for halibut they're catching ... rockfish as a by-catch in that fishery," said Cleo Brylinsky, who heads up the rockfish project at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "So it's important to our tourism economy that we have sustainable fisheries and well-managed fisheries," she said.

The rockfish research is one of several requests for federal help studying marine wildlife, which, coming from another candidate, might have drawn McCain's mockery.

Here are a few, with the state's description of the project:

⢠$400,000: Alaska Invasive Species Program: Continues to comprehensively prevent, identify, and respond to the threat of invasive species on the Alaska environment.

⢠$494,900: Assessment of Recreational Halibut Harvest in Alaska: This is an ongoing effort to collect data on the recreational halibut fishery that is conducted by federal agencies though relying on the state for data.

⢠$2 million: Bering Sea Crab Research and Management: Researches Bering Sea crab productivity and sustainability as necessary to restore crab stocks.

⢠$3.2 million: Seal and Steller Sea Lion Biological Research: Funds monitoring of ice seal populations in Native villages, research on the species delineation and genetics of harbor seals to understand the declines in population and provide for population restoration, and continues research into Steller Sea Lion population decline.

The McCain-Palin campaign didn't respond to the questions of whether Palin still backs those specific requests, or how she would defend them in light of her opposition to earmarks.

In response to those questions, McCain-Palin spokesman Ben Porritt said the governor believes in "open, transparent, and efficient government" and criticized Obama for making extensive earmark requests.


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The problem is not that many of her earmarks are justified. The problem is that by defending them, she goes so far off-message that she makes McCain look incompetent.

I don't see this as particular evidence of environment-friendly leanings on Palin's part. It's completely explained by her Alaska boosterism. She's looking at protection of the tourist economy, not the eco-sphere. Throw in a dose of local cronyism too. Bet you anything she doesn't view protecting the Great Lakes, or anywhere else in the lower 48, quite as favorably.

My concern is not that she has strongly supported earmarks. It is that she strongly supported earmarks and then has made strong public statements that she opposed them. I don't think the fuss is about earmarks so much as misrepresenting her position and previous actions.

Ace, that is a very good point which I hadn't thought of before seeing the sentiment from a TPM reader.

We have ways of funding science which are much less prone to crony corruption and abuse. They aren't perfect, but are much better.

If you really think that rockfish fisheries in AK need to be better understood, get the NSF or Interior (or one of the other agencies) to put out a CFP (and give them the resources to actually fund it!)