Monday 01 September 2008
by: Alex Spillius, The Telegraph UK
Sarah Palin's record in office is facing increasing scrutiny after it emerged that she misled Republican supporters when she was presented to the nation as Senator John McCain's running mate.
St Paul, Minnesota - The Governor of Alaska gave a misleading version of events over a controversial bridge project in her home state when she made her maiden speech as the presumptive nominee.
Mrs Palin told a cheering audience in Ohio that she had turned down an offer from the US Congress to build the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere", which would have connected Gravina Island with Ketchikan International, an airport in Alaska's southeast serving just 200,000 passengers a year. Mr McCain routinely cites the $100 million project as a symbol of wasteful central government spending.
As she introduced herself to Republicans and the American public on Friday, the virtually unknown Mrs Palin said: "I championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. In fact, I told Congress ... 'thanks, but no thanks' on that bridge to nowhere. If our state wanted a bridge, I said we'd build it ourselves."
However it emerged that in a 2006 interview with the Anchorage Daily News during her gubernatorial campaign, Mrs Palin had a different view of the bridge.
Asked "would you continue state funding for the proposed Knik Arm and Gravina Island bridges?" she replied: "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."
When Congressional funding was withdrawn because of an uproar in Washington about the expense of the project, she cancelled it, but in a regretful tone.
"Despite the work of our congressional delegation, we are about $329 million short of full funding for the bridge project, and it's clear that Congress has little interest in spending any more money on a bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina Island."
With a platoon of Senator Barack Obama's campaign researchers travelling to Alaska to pick through her record, Mrs Palin could face several awkward questions over the coming weeks. After less than two years running the state, preceded by two terms as mayor of a town of 9,000, presidential scholars have pronounced her the most inexperienced candidate on a presidential ticket in the modern era.
Discussing her credentials as vice-president, a Republican in Alaska said: "She's old enough. She's a US citizen."
In addition to her conservative social views, sportiness and raising five children, Mrs Palin, 44, is presented by Mr McCain as a fellow maverick and reformer and will be celebrated as such this week at the Republican National Convention, where she is due to accept formally her nomination on Wednesday.
A spokesman for the McCain campaign said: "Her sentiments on the bridge to nowhere and wasteful government spending are very clear."
However in 2007 her state received the highest per capita amount of federal funding, $253.16 ($506.34), according to Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group which tracks "earmark" spending.
She also supported multi-billion-dollar tax increase on Alaska's oil industry, and approved a $250 million state subsidy to a Canadian company wanting to build a natural gas pipeline through Alaska.
She is already under investigation by the state's ethics commission for her dismissal of Walter Monegan, Alaska's public safety director, for refusing to sack her brother-in-law Michael Wooten, a state trooper who was allegedly guilty of several infractions and was separating from his wife, Mrs Palin's sister.
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