New York, Sep.1 : Republican presidential nominee John McCain's running mate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has been accused of misleading party supporters over a controversial bridge project in her home state.
According to the New York Times, Palin told a cheering audience in Ohio on Friday that she had turned down an offer from the US Congress to build the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere", which would have connected Gravina Island with Ketchikan International, an airport in Alaska's southeast serving just 200,000 passengers a year.
What exposes Palin is the fact that McCain has routinely cited the 100 million pound project as a symbol of wasteful central government spending.
As she introduced herself to Republicans, Palin said: "I championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. In fact, I told Congress ... 'thanks, but no thanks' on that bridge to nowhere. If our state wanted a bridge, I said we'd build it ourselves."
However it emerged that in a 2006 interview with the Anchorage Daily News during her gubernatorial campaign, Palin had a different view of the bridge.
Asked "would you continue state funding for the proposed Knik Arm and Gravina Island bridges?" she replied: "Yes. I would like to see Alaska's infrastructure projects built sooner rather than later. The window is now - while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist."
When Congressional funding was withdrawn because of an uproar in Washington about the expense of the project, she cancelled it, but in a regretful tone.
"Despite the work of our congressional delegation, we are about 329 million dollars short of full funding for the bridge project, and it's clear that Congress has little interest in spending any more money on a bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina Island."
With Senator Barack Obama's campaign researchers travelling to Alaska to pick through her record, Palin could face several awkward questions over the coming weeks.
After less than two years running the state, preceded by two terms as mayor of a town of 9,000, presidential scholars have pronounced her the most inexperienced candidate on a presidential ticket in the modern era.
Palin, 44, has been presented by McCain as a fellow maverick and reformer and will be celebrated as such this week at the Republican National Convention, where she is due to accept formally her nomination on Wednesday.
She is already under investigation by the state's ethics commission for her dismissal of Walter Monegan, Alaska's public safety director, for refusing to sack her brother-in-law Michael Wooten, a state trooper who was allegedly guilty of several infractions and was separating from his wife, Mrs Palin's sister.