Washington, Sep 15 : Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's credentials as a reformer were brought into question by a former adversary who said the Alaska Governor can't claim to be a credible agent of change since she kept federal highway money allotted to Alaska even though the so-called 'Bridge to Nowhere' project had been cut from the list of the state's earmarked projects.
The Bridge to Nowhere, considered the epitome of Washington horse-trading and pork barrel projects, was meant to connect Ketchikan to Gravina Island, whose 50 residents can now only access the mainland via ferry or airplane.
When Congress removed the earmark designating the funds specifically for the bridge - and another connecting Anchorage and Point McKenzie - Palin still took the cash, said former Alaska Governor Tony Knowles, complaining that is not the mark of a reformer.
"First of all, to get the record straight on that, she did not turn back the money to it," FOX News quoted Knowles, who challenged Palin in the 2006 gubernatorial election, as saying.
"In terms of business as usual and that she is going to be the reform on that issue is just not true," he added.
But Palin's Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell said Palin most certainly did reject funding the bridge but did her job as Governor by accepting federal dollars.
Palin "has said that she would not stand in the way of infrastructure dollars coming our way to Alaska. But that was when that bridge was, what, 223 million dollars," Parnell said.
Alaska, with its massive oil and gas industry, ranks No. 1 in the country in terms of federal dollars received per capita. That has made the state ripe for accusations of boondoggling and abuse of the federal system.
Palin ran for Governor in 2006 on the reform mantle, targeting Republican Governor and former Senator Frank Murkowski in the primary in part on ethical questions. She vanquished Murkowski before going on to win the general election against Knowles.
Indeed, the McCain campaign has pushed Palin's role as reformer as her leading attribute for being chosen to join as John McCain's vice presidential running mate.
The McCain campaign responded to Knowles' remarks by calling them "absurd".