Ad Campaign Jabs Senators for 'Pork Barrel' Spending

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - Television viewers in West Virginia, Rhode Island and Michigan will get an earful about earmarks and federal pork-barrel spending. A conservative group, Americans for Prosperity, will launch the television ad campaign beginning Wednesday in those states, urging residents to contact their U.S. senators to tell them to oppose the allegedly wasteful items in the federal budget.

"Grassroots taxpayers are sick and tired of having their hard-earned tax dollars wasted on pork-barrel earmarks, and they have started to make their voices heard in Washington," said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, on Tuesday.

"Our goal with this million-dollar ad campaign is to first get the pork-barrel earmarks out of the emergency spending bill, then to fight wasteful earmarks in the regular appropriations bills, and finally to build support for real and lasting earmark reform legislation," said Phillips.

The ads, narrated by retired Navy Cmdr. Duane Sand focus on legislation to fund the war against terrorism. That bill, Sand declares in the ad, "is being held hostage to pork-barrel spending."

"It's called political earmarking -- a secret way politicians waste your money to get themselves reelected," Sand states in the ad.

The ads, which will run June 7-20, are specific to each of the three states and single out Democratic Sens. Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, as well as Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

"These seem to be senators who have gone both ways on this issue," said Phillips. "We wanted to pick senators who are struggling with this."

Byrd, who since 1989 has either chaired or been the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, is famous for carving out federal spending projects for his home state. He announced in 1990 that he wanted to be West Virginia's "billion dollar industry," according to the Almanac of American Politics.

When asked on Tuesday about the new television campaign targeting him, Byrd told Cybercast News Service that Americans for Prosperity "ought to be ashamed to insult the intelligence of West Virginians by using glaring distortions to play political games with emotional issues like aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina and support for our fighting men and women.""

"This ad is little more than an out-of-state partisan group's effort to distort my work for West Virginia," he said.

"Worse, this ad is flat wrong. No one is holding up the funding for the troops. In fact, with this legislation, Congress will have provided $318 billion for our troops in Iraq. No one is delaying emergency funds for Hurricane Katrina. With this legislation, Congress will have provided $87 billion in relief and recovery funds for the people in the Gulf Coast region," Byrd stated in an email response.

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