The Locker Room

Lean budgets with pork?

Posted by Paul Chesser at 10:00 AM

The Washington Times today begins an occasional series which will apparently cover various races for the U.S. Senate, and starts with the Pennsylvania contest between incumbent Republican Rick Santorum and his challenger, Democrat Robert Casey, who currently leads polls. Perhaps a bit surprisingly (but justifiably), this story comes off (to me) as unflattering to Santorum, emphasizing the decisions he's made that are less than conservative:

Typical of his campaigning these days was a stop earlier this month at the Pittsburgh Zoo, where he boasted to local reporters about how he'd fetched $500,000 from federal taxpayers to build one of the most luxurious polar-bear exhibits outside Arctic climes.

"They're building underwater tunnels so you're actually under water," Mr. Santorum told his awe-struck children as they toured the construction site and approached a tunnel of 4-inchglass that will allow zoo visitors to view the bears from below.

After the zoo event, Mr. Santorum was asked whether funding for the polar-bear exhibit really was all that important, given the federal government's hemorrhaging debt, looming financial crisis in entitlement programs and expensive emergencies, such as the war in Iraq and rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina.

"If the pot of money is there, I'm going to make sure we get a piece of that money," said Mr. Santorum, who defended his record of support for "lean" budgets.

That's the wrong answer for some of his longtime supporters.

"Where does the federal government get the constitutional right to take $500,000 from people to build a polar-bear exhibit?" asked Charlie Clift, who has supported Mr. Santorum in every past election.

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