Earmarks: Déjà Vu All Over Again

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Jessica Levin (202)772-8162
jlevin@mediamatters.org

Earmarks: Déjà Vu All Over Again

Media return to familiar pattern of falsely characterizing earmarks as Democrats' alone

WASHINGTON - Media Matters for America
has recently documented several examples of the media uncritically
advancing the false notion that congressional Republicans are champions of
earmark reform and in contrast, the Democratic Party are champions of wasteful
spending. In advancing this false notion, the media frequently ignore
historical context -- in which spending bills have long been rife with
Republican earmarks, a pattern that continues to this day.

"From
accusing President Obama of breaking campaign promises to ignoring Republican
earmarks in the omnibus bill, the media have consistently cast Republicans as anti-earmark
warriors and Democrats as the sole champions of earmarks, while ignoring
evidence to the contrary,"
said Eric Burns, president
of Media Matters for America. "This has been a pattern in the media for the
past two years. Accurate and thorough reporting would present the full picture --
including the Republican Party's history of earmarking."

Some examples of the
media's faulty coverage of earmarks for the past two years include:

ACCUSING
OBAMA OF BACKING DOWN ON CAMPAIGN PROMISES

Several media figures have falsely
asserted that Obama is breaking his campaign promise to end earmarks because of
his reported plans to sign the omnibus appropriations bill that contains
earmarks. As Media Matters has noted,
Obama consistently said while campaigning that he intends to "clean
up" the process in an effort to curb spending on earmarks, not eliminate
them entirely.

IGNORING
REPUBLICAN EARMARKS IN OMNIBUS

While reporting on Republican criticism of earmarks in the omnibus
appropriations bill, several outlets ignored the fact that 40
percent of the earmarks in the bill were reportedly requested by congressional
Republicans or that an analysis by independent budget watchdog group Taxpayers
for Common Sense reportedly found that six Republican senators are among the
top 10 sponsors of earmarks in the bill. In one case, a Washington Times article uncritically reported Senate Minority
Leader Mitch McConnell's claim that the Obama administration is
"recommending that we continue the spending binge that has begun
here" without noting that McConnell himself added 36 earmarks to the bill
totaling about $51.2 million.

INVENTING
WASTEFUL SPENDING IN STIMULUS PACKAGE

Similarly, several conservative media figures eagerly advanced
Republican claims about purported pork in the economic recovery package. Upon
further review, these projects did not exist. For example, conservative media figures claimed the bill
contained $30 million to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse in House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi's district. The story was traced back to an email from a
Republican staffer who sourced the claim to an unnamed federal agency and who
later conceded that "[t]here is no language in the bill that says this
money will go to this project."

IGNORING
DEMOCRATS' RECORD ON EARMARK REFORM

The
New York Times
suggested that Democrats were not "elated" about
President Bush's emphasis on reducing earmarks in his final State of the
Union speech. The Times failed to report that Democrats had approved fewer earmarks
in 2007 than Republicans did in 2006 when they controlled Congress. Similarly,
a Politico article attributed a 2006 drop
in earmarks to Republicans, failing to mention that following the
Democratic victories in the 2006 midterm elections, the GOP leadership declined
to pass nine of 11 annual appropriations bills and that in order to fund the
federal government for the remainder of fiscal 2007, Democrats placed a
one-time moratorium on earmarks after taking control of the House and Senate.

TOUTING GOV. SARAH PALIN AS EARMARK REFORMER

During the campaign, several media figures characterized
Palin as opposing earmarks, in particular the Bridge to Nowhere. In fact, Palin
reportedly sought and requested hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks as
governor of Alaska
and reportedly hired a D.C. lobbying firm to acquire tens of millions of
dollars in earmarks while serving as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. Additionally,
Palin reportedly supported the Bridge to Nowhere project during her 2006
gubernatorial campaign and suggested that Alaska's congressional
delegation should continue to try to procure funding.

HYPING BASELESS GOP ALLEGATIONS ABOUT PELOSI WATERFRONT PROJECT

In 2007, Media
Matters
documented numerous examples of the media
advancing baseless Republican accusations that Pelosi included a provision in
the Water Resources Development Act of 2007 that benefits property owned by her
husband. In fact, Port of San Francisco officials said they
specifically requested the improvements included in Pelosi's earmark.

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Media Matters for America is a Web-based, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) progressive research and information center dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media.

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