WASHINGTON — Republican Danny Tarkanian said today he won’t seek earmarks for Nevada if he is elected to the U.S. Senate, and will work to wean Congress from what he called wasteful pork-barrel spending.
"I would not take earmarks and I would fight for all states not to get earmarks. I would not propose earmarks on our behalf. You have to lead by example," Tarkanian said in a meeting with reporters.
Tarkanian described the practice of targeting federal spending for specific parochial purposes as "a power grab by federal legislators and it is hurting our constituents in the long run."
He maintained taxpayer dollars are siphoned to pay for questionable projects favored by individual members of Congress. "It isn’t right, it shouldn’t be done and it should be eliminated," he said.
"The pork projects that come to Nevada obviously are a benefit to Nevada, but at the expense of all the other money that is being spent on all the other states’ pork barrel? Not in my opinion.
"I firmly believe and I will stake my campaign on it that the people of Nevada do not want this wasteful spending," Tarkanian said. "They want the money in their pockets."
If elected, Tarkanian would join about a half-dozen senators who decline to seek earmarks, including Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Russ Feingold, D-Wis., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Jim DeMint, R-S.C., according to earmark reform advocates.
Declining to seek earmarks would distinguish Tarkanian from incumbent Sen. Harry Reid, a Democrat who is campaigning on the millions of dollars he has obtained for Nevada transportation, social service programs and energy projects through his Senate seniority.
But Tarkanian, an attorney and businessman who is one of at least nine Republicans competing in the primary to take on Reid, said his immediate intent is to draw a distinction between himself and fellow GOP contender Sue Lowden.
According to Tarkanian, Lowden has been critical of Reid for not bringing Nevada enough federal spending. "I have a different approach," he said.
Lowden spokesman Robert Uithoven disputed Tarkanian, saying there is little daylight between the two GOP candidates on earmarks.
Uithoven said Lowden also would forego earmarks for Nevada, but would otherwise push to increase the federal spending sent to the state through programs that distributed funds through various formulas.
For several reasons that have included its fast-growing population and its relatively low level of state spending on social programs, Nevada is considered a donor state in that its taxpayers send more money to Washington than they get in return.
Lowden "has stated she would be a strong proponent of earmark reform and if elected she would meet with like-minded conservatives to support earmark reform," Uithoven said. "I don’t see a difference in their position on earmarks."
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at email@example.com or 202-783-1760.