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Senate GOP Candidates In Hot Water Over Taking Earmarks, Government Funds

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There has been and, it appears, always will be tension between the strict anti-earmark and government spending philosophy of the modern Republican Party and the occasional demands of governance.

In the past week, a series of stories have surfaced in local papers calling Republican candidates to task for making a big show about government spending in public while either requesting or taking federal funds in the former or current capacities.

The most glaring example was surfaced by the Denver Post on Thursday. The paper reported that Republican Senate candidate Ken Buck had requested at least $5 million in earmarks for projects in the county where he served as attorney general. On the campaign trail, Buck has railed against pork-barrel projects including signing a pledge to refuse earmarks in the next session of Congress.

A similar scenario has taken place in Wisconsin, where a local television station reported that Senate candidate Ron Johnson received a $2.5 million government-issued loan in the 1980s to expand his factory. Like Buck, Johnson has made railing against government spending a main feature of his run for office.

In Indiana, meanwhile, Senate candidate Dan Coats has run on a platform of preventing a government takeover of private enterprise, only for it to be discovered that he lobbied the Senate on the TARP for a company he represented.

Coats isn't the only one facing charges of duplicity in his state. Gov. Mitch Daniels -- a much-discussed potential presidential candidate -- reversed course this week on a pledge he had made to reject federal aid for teachers and Medicaid. (Daniels had actually been supportive of the aid before he came out against it during a national television appearance).

Each of these lawmakers had individual explanations. Buck said that by accepting federal funds he didn't forfeit his beliefs that government spending needed to be axed. Johnson's campaign has insisted that his loan was not a payment or subsidy. It was, in the end, paid back in full. Daniels, meanwhile, had his hand forced predominantly by state lawmakers who recognized a need for the stimulus money and pushed him to accept it.

The anecdotes, nevertheless, are already being used as fodder for Democrats intent on labeling the Republican Party as housed with fiscal conservative frauds.

Whether howling about contradictions can be an effective political charge seems doubtful. Shortly after the stimulus package was passed, Democrats made a major fuss over revelations that GOP officials were not only appearing at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for stimulus projects but also privately lobbying government agencies for the funds. Republicans kept on criticizing the stimulus, however, and have suffered little in the realm of public opinion for the seeming hypocrisy.

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