Just how many earmarks did Sarah Palin bring her hometown as mayor? The answer isn't quite as straightforward as the widely cited $27 million figure.
Though vice presidential candidate Palin has championed her record to "end the abuses" of earmark spending in Congress, she has hardly shied away from raking in federal funds, first as mayor and most recently as governor. But a review by ABC News of the earmarks watchdog groups have attributed to Palin paints a more complicated picture of her involvement in bringing federal money both to the city and the state.
Among the findings:
* Sarah Palin was not involved in winning two of the three earmarks to the Wasilla area that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) criticized as a waste of federal spending.
Instead those two of those earmarks – one for an agricultural processing facility and another for federal road improvements – were lobbied by and went to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, akin to the county that includes Wasilla, according to borough and current and former city officials. "The city of Wasilla had nothing to do with it," said John Duffy, manager for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
* The city of Wasilla received far fewer federal earmarks than the $27 million figure but determining exactly how many earmarks Wasilla received under Palin depends on how you count the numbers.
The initial figures on Palin's earmarks came from Taxpayers for Common Sense, whose press release state that she "helped get nearly $27 million in earmarked federal funding."
But the city government, under Palin, only directly received about a third of those funds – $7.95 million between 2000 and 2003 – interviews and city records show show. About $18.4 million went to the borough or private entities, some of which the city supported through resolutions, even if it did not request the money itself.
* While Palin continued to ask for earmarks as governor, she reduced requests from $350 million by then-Gov. Frank Murkowski in fiscal year 2007 to $197 million in fiscal year 2009, according to John Katz, Washington D.C-based director of state-federal relations for Alaska.
In a Mar. 5 op-ed piece in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Palin defended her requests for earmarks, arguing that Congress "has the constitutional responsibility to put its mark on the federal budget, including adding funds that the president has not proposed."
Indeed, Palin is hardly the only candidate involved in earmark gathering. Both Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and vice presidential candidate Joseph Biden made significant earmarks during their tenure in the Senate. Last year alone, Obama secured $98 million earmarks and Biden obtained $85 million, according to a tally by Taxpayers for Common Sense based on newly required disclosures.
Wasilla first hired a lobbyist in 2000, according to lobbying disclosure records, turning to Steven Silver, a former staffer to Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R), who was already representing the nearby borough, Matanuska-Susitna. (Silver did not respond to a message left at his office.)
"We just piggy backed theirs," said Don Bennett, who served on the Wasilla City Council from 1998 to 2001. And as he saw it, there was little opposition to the idea of getting more federal funds. "If there was a way of getting money, everyone was involved."