Club for Growth Blog

FACT CHECK: Santorum on Earmarks

Link to Article:
CLAIM: Santorum was a prolific supporter of pork-barrel “earmarks” and still supports earmarks today (Source: Made by Governor Rick Perry of Senator Rick Santorum, 12/29/11)


Analysis: The claim we are examining deals with two parts. The first is whether or not Rick Santorum supported earmarks as a member of Congress from Pennsylvania. The second is whether he still defends earmarks.  

In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, reporters found that Santorum sent “hundreds of millions of dollars to Pennsylvania,” by looking at press releases from Santorum’s office and at news accounts at the time. Thus, we can conclude that Santorum did request earmarks as a member of Congress. Furthermore, Santorum voted for the notorious 2005 Highway Bill, which contained literally thousands of earmarks including the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” (Senate Roll Call Vote #220, 2005).

Not only did Santorum vote for the bill that contained the Bridge to Nowhere, but when Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma offered an amendment to shift the money being spent on the bridge to nowhere to disaster relief to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Santorum voted to keep the Alaskan pork project. The amendment was S. Amdt. 2165 to H.R. 3058, the “Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, the Judiciary, the District of Columbia, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006.” (Source: Senate Roll Call Vote #262, 2005) When asked about his vote for the Bridge to Nowhere, Santorum defended the vote, saying, “People say that I voted for ‘The Bridge to Nowhere.’ I did. I went with the federalist argument, which is, ‘Who am I in Pennsylvania to tell Alaska what their highway priorities should be?’” (Source: Des Moines Register, 12/29/11)

Santorum wasn’t shy about touting his ability to secure federal dollars for Pennsylvania on the campaign trail either. A 2006 Santorum campaign document entitled “50 things you may not know about Rick Santorum” praises the fact that he “helped secure $100 million in funding to build America’s first ever coal to ultra-clean fuel plant,” and brags about the fact that he “successfully fought to protect billions of dollars in transportation funds for Pennsylvania.” (Source:

But what about more recent history? Has Santorum continued to defend earmarking? The answer is yes. For example, in 2009, Santorum said: “I’m not saying necessarily earmarks are bad. I have had a lot of earmarks. In fact, I’m very proud of all the earmarks I’ve put in bills. I’ll defend earmarks.” (Source: “Hannity”, Fox News, 2/26/09)

The same Wall Street Journal article on Santorum’s earmarks also noted that Santorum has continued to defend earmarking as recently as last week on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” saying that “"I don't regret going out at the time and making sure that the people of Pennsylvania, who I was elected to represent, got resources back into the state after spending money.” (Source: Wall Street Journal, 1/6/11)

For the record, Santorum’s continued defense of earmarks gives him the opposite position of the entire house Republican caucus, and against the vast majority of Republican Senators.

The Club for Growth rates the claim that Santorum both supported earmarks in the past and continues to support them today “True.”

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