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The Earmark Wars Continue in Arkansas

Another Senate candidate is resisting the changing political calculus surrounding earmarks, in which candidates have begun shying away from touting the spending projects they typically brag about bringing home to their state or district.

In addition to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who’s made no bones about the money he brings home to Nevada, embattled Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) isn’t shying away from advertising her efforts:

Nearly every day, her campaign and Senate offices trumpet money that she’s helped secure for her home state — from $13,811 for the Hope Police Department to buy a new cruiser to a $102 million stimulus-funded grant for the state to pay for broadband Internet. [...]

”I’m going to fight hard for my state because, let me tell you, these dollars are going to go somewhere else if we don’t get them,” Lincoln told The Associated Press.

Politicians have feared using this kind of rhetoric in a time when earmarks — though a miniscule portion of the federal budget — are being linked rather successfully to wasteful spending and looming deficits in Washington. But the political science professors I spoke to for my article all noted that what looks like wasteful pork spending in some other state or district often smells like delicious bacon when it’s in your own. And smaller or poorer states like Nevada and Arkansas, in which residents often feel (rightly or wrongly) like they are getting a smaller slice of the federal pie, are especially prone to accepting such logic in the name of fairness or “leveling the playing field.”

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