Keller @ Large: Earmarks An Issue In Mass. Senate Race

BOSTON (CBS) – Earmarks are now an issue in the Massachusetts Senate race. These are federal funds set aside for local projects. Critics call them wasteful budget-busters.

Both Senator Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren have been critical of earmarks.

But in an interview with WBZ last year, Warren, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for Senate, said if elected she’d still compete for that targeted funding for Massachusetts.

WBZ-TV’s Jon Keller Is At Large

Brown has been trying to make political hay off of that, even though he once took the same position.

“I think there are a lot of people who have objections to earmarks, and for good reason,” Warren told Jon Keller. “I think they’re creating some real problems in our system. But so long as we live in an earmark system, it is part of the job of each delegation to protect its home state. That’s how the game works.”

Brown has rebuked Warren in press releases linking to that interview.

But when he was asked the same question as a Senate candidate in 2009, Brown’s response sounded a lot like Warren’s.

At the time, Brown said, “I’ll fight for every dollar to come back to Massachusetts as I fought for my district, not only to get the dollars but to retain them.”

In a statement today, a Brown campaign spokesman documented a string of anti-earmark votes by the Senator since taking office, and added, “Scott Brown’s strong record opposing earmarks and supporting a permanent ban of them in the Senate speaks for itself.”

And from the Warren Camp: “Elizabeth will work to end earmarks permanently and supports legislation to do that. But until that happens, she’s going to play by the rules that exist, because that will help Massachusetts.”

Brown argues there are ways to make sure Massachusetts gets it fair share of federal funding without inserting earmarks, and claims that’s just what he’s been doing.

But the tale of the tapes underscores a political reality that undercuts the push for earmark reform: A candidate who vows not to pursue every last dime does so at his or her political peril.

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