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By Shawn Zeller September 16, 2008

McCain's record on pork: Good, not perfect

Sen. John McCain has a well-deserved reputation in Washington as a pork-buster. The GOP presidential nominee regularly castigates colleagues when they insert language in spending bills forcing taxpayers everywhere to pay for projects only of interest to a select few.

But we sure wish that McCain would stop claiming, as he has repeatedly throughout the campaign, that he has never sought any pork for his own state. The latest instance is in a speech he made in Tampa, Fla., on Sept. 16, 2008. He said:

"I have never asked for a single earmark, pork barrel project for my state of Arizona. Sen. Obama has asked for $932-million dollars in earmarks, literally $1-million for every day that he's been in Congress." We examined the claim he's making about Barack Obama's record in another item here. In this one, we'll look at what McCain is boasting about himself. It echoes a point McCain made in a mailer being distributed in Florida in which McCain claims to have "never sought a single dollar" in pork barrel funding.

It's just not true. As PolitiFact writer John Frank pointed out earlier this year, McCain in 2006 co-sponsored legislation that asked for $10-million for an academic center at the University of Arizona to honor the late Supreme Court chief justice William Rehnquist. In 2003, Frank noted, McCain won authorization to buy property to create a buffer zone around Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, and in 1992, McCain asked the Environmental Protection Agency to provide $5-million toward a wastewater project in Nogales, Ariz.

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While McCain would surely say these projects don't meet the definition of pork barrel spending, watchdogs disagree. "If it doesn't meet the technical term of earmark, it would probably meet the public idea of one," Pete Sepp, a vice president at the conservative, anti-pork National Taxpayers Union, told the New York Times in reference to the Rehnquist center request.

By most senators' standards, McCain's pork barrel requests are minuscule, but they do exist. And given the absolutism in McCain's claim, we rule his statement False.


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McCain's record on pork: Good, not perfect

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