Rick Santorum defends spending on pet projects

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, left, speaks as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, listens during a Republican presidential debate in Sioux City, Iowa, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011. Pool,AP Photo/Eric Gay

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Thursday defended his record of directing federal funds to pet projects in his home state of Pennsylvania.

"I've defended my earmarks in the sense that I'm proud of the money that I did set aside for priorities in my state instead of having bureaucrats do that," Santorum said on Fox News. "The Constitution gives the power of the purse to the Congress."

Santorum's remarks were in response to a new radio ad that his GOP rival Rick Perry is running in Iowa, slamming the former Pennsylvania senator for approving earmarks.

The 60-second spot, entitled "Game show," criticizes Santorum for voting for the so-called "bridge to nowhere" and charges that he "personally demanded more than $1billion of earmarks in his 16 years in Congress."

The focus on Santorum follows his jump in the polls in Iowa, which holds the nation's first presidential nominating contest on Tuesday. A CNN poll out of Iowa released Wednesday showed Santorum in third place in the state at 16 percent, up 11 points from the beginning of the month.

Santorum wasn't in Congress in 2007 when Congress started to require members to disclose earmark requests, so it's hard to nail down exactly how the Perry campaign came up with its claim that Santorum demanded $1 billion in earmarks. He did, however, vote for the highway spending bill that included the "bridge to nowhere" in 2005.

Rick Santorum
AP Photo/Richard Shiro

On Fox, Santorum acknowledged that voters have grown tired of congressional spending on pet projects, but he pointed out that ceding congressional authority over federal spending would simply give the executive branch more unchecked power.

"It's not hard for Rick Perry or anybody running for president to be against congressional earmarks because it really just gives more power to the president," he said.

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