- The Washington Times - Monday, December 14, 2009

Still pork busting

After Democrats broke the Republican filibuster Saturday against a pork-stuffed spending bill in the Senate, Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, bashed Republicans and Democrats who continue to slip special projects into these bills despite the growing backlash against government waste.

The 2008 Republican presidential nominee, who had promised to veto bills larded with earmarks if elected president, reminded the Senate of his distaste for the practice on Saturday by reading a long list of projects, secured by members of both parties, contained in the bill - many with a heavy dose of sarcasm.

He criticized everything - little-used airports in Mississippi being funded with earmarks secured by Republican senators, money allotted for a city beautification project in Scranton, Pa., and the Laredo Little Theatre in Texas, which is getting a boost from the bill.

Mr. McCain said one of his “favorites” was an earmark for $2.6 million to support surgical operations in outer space, at the University of Nebraska. “Get Dr. Spock here and Bones and get them out there and help them at the university,” he sneered. He also criticized an earmark to study Woodstock: “In order to really do a lot more research on that great cultural moment, we’re going to spend $30,000 for the Woodstock film festival youth initiative.”

He counted 4,752 earmarks in all and said it was indicative of “the greatest act of generational theft that’s been committed in the history of this country.”

“In the last campaign, the president of the United States campaigned for change, change you can believe in. There’s no change here,” Mr. McCain said. “We’re spending money like a drunken sailor, and the bar is still open.”

Speaking in the mostly empty Senate and glancing up to the upper gallery populated by tourists taking a Saturday morning tour of the Capitol, Mr. McCain said, “There’s a peaceful revolution going on out there, and they’re sick and tired of the way we do business here in Washington.”

“People who vote for this kind of pork-barrel spending are going to be punished by the voters,” Mr. McCain threatened, hitting his table loudly with his fingers for emphasis.

Line crossers

The Saturday vote on a massive $446.8 billion omnibus spending bill that lumped yearly appropriations for several agencies into one required some lawmakers to make unusual accommodations for it.

In order for it to pass, an assistant needed to roll the 92-year-old dean of the Senate, Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, into the chamber in his wheelchair in order to cast his vote.

And Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent and an Orthodox Jew, walked miles from his synagogue, because his religion frowns upon using modern conveniences, such as a car, on the Sabbath.

Last year

The weekend marked the first anniversary of the arson attack on former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s home church.

The arsonist still has not been caught, though the potentially deadly incident at Wasilla Bible Church on Dec. 12 has largely faded from the media’s consciousness.

“The investigation is still open, and we’re still asking the public to contact us if anybody has heard anything,” Wasilla Deputy Police Chief Greg Wood told the Alaska Dispatch earlier this month.

Officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives declared last December that the arsonist had placed accelerants near the entrances and exits of the Wasilla Bible Church before setting it ablaze - while five women were inside the church. Though nobody was hurt, the arsonist succeeded in causing $1 million in damage.

Pastor’s media tips

The Rev. Larry Kroon, the pastor at Wasilla Bible Church, has learned a few things from the 2008 presidential campaign when journalists descended on his church looking for a story to link to his most famous congregant, Sarah Palin.

Mr. Kroon has prepared some media tips for other pastors who may encounter a similar situation. He shared them with Terry Mattingly, who directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and also writes a weekly column for the Scripps Howard News Service.

His first tip? “Never accept an interview without confirming a reporter’s identity and his or her current employer. Just because someone has written for the Associated Press doesn’t mean that he isn’t currently a blogger for PalinIsADummy.org or something like that.”

Mr. Kroon also suggested that contact information for community leaders and church elders be kept in a firewall-protected section of the Web site and that phone numbers and e-mails only be posted for staffers who are willing to talk to the media in a timely manner.

Lastly? “In the Internet age, there is no reason that a pastor cannot - as a condition for talking to a reporter - insist on the right to record and transcribe an interview,” Mr. Mattingly, who blogs at www.tmatt.net, relayed from Mr. Koon. “That way, the professionals on both sides of the transaction know that they are on the record and that the results, if needed to clarify a point, can be posted online or e-mailed to a publisher.”

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@ washingtontimes.com.

• Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@washingtontimes.com.

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