Palin's Earmarks Were For Scientific and Environmental Research
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin might dispute the human contribution to climate change, oppose embryonic stem cell research, and promote creationism, but in other ways she has been an advocate for science. As I wrote last week, while on a few issues bi-partisan support for science breaks down, on other issues, including financing for scientific research, many Republicans are leading advocates.
Palin, for example, as Governor championed several earmarks requests to fund environmental research in her state. From the Politico:
Many others, though, are of exactly the sort that McCain has made a career of mocking--like animal research.
"We're not going to spend $3 million of your tax dollars to study the DNA of bears in Montana," McCain has said during this year's campaign, referring to a study he's mocked for years of whether grizzlies need to keep their status as an endangered species.
Palin, meanwhile, has requested $3.2 million to be spent in part researching the "genetics of harbor seals," in one of the state's many requests for federal funding of research into Alaska's fauna.
She's seeking $1 million, for instance, for a project to investigate rockfish fisheries, a request that, according to the Alaska document, was presented to and refused by Congress last year.
"Our state's economy depends a certain amount on tourism...and there are a lot of charter fishermen who have clients that want to come up fish for halibut, and likewise when they're fishing for halibut they're catching ... rockfish as a by-catch in that fishery," said Cleo Brylinsky, who heads up the rockfish project at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "So it's important to our tourism economy that we have sustainable fisheries and well-managed fisheries," she said.
The rockfish research is one of several requests for federal help studying marine wildlife, which, coming from another candidate, might have drawn McCain's mockery.
Here are a few, with the state's description of the project:
• $400,000: Alaska Invasive Species Program: Continues to comprehensively prevent, identify, and respond to the threat of invasive species on the Alaska environment.
• $494,900: Assessment of Recreational Halibut Harvest in Alaska: This is an ongoing effort to collect data on the recreational halibut fishery that is conducted by federal agencies though relying on the state for data.
• $2 million: Bering Sea Crab Research and Management: Researches Bering Sea crab productivity and sustainability as necessary to restore crab stocks.
• $3.2 million: Seal and Steller Sea Lion Biological Research: Funds monitoring of ice seal populations in Native villages, research on the species delineation and genetics of harbor seals to understand the declines in population and provide for population restoration, and continues research into Steller Sea Lion population decline.
The McCain-Palin campaign didn't respond to the questions of whether Palin still backs those specific requests, or how she would defend them in light of her opposition to earmarks.
In response to those questions, McCain-Palin spokesman Ben Porritt said the governor believes in "open, transparent, and efficient government" and criticized Obama for making extensive earmark requests.
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