Stephen Laffey, the Republican primary challenger to incumbent Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, has been campaigning as a fiscally responsible alternative who will put an end to wasteful Washington spending. Laffey's taking aim at earmarks, the federally funded projects known as "pork" that he calls unnecessary.
Each week, Laffey, the mayor of Cranston, issues a press release calling attention to a "taxpayer rip-off of the week." This week's project was $1 million in the 2006 Defense Appropriations Act that went to the Griffith Observatory Planetarium in California.
"I have seen a lot of outrageous pork projects in my day, but this one takes the cake," Laffey said. "Our troops are fighting overseas, and instead of putting money towards supporting them, Congress squanders our vital defense dollars on an observatory in Los Angeles."
Chafee, on the other hand, has been touting the many Rhode Island projects he has supported by bringing back $2 billion in federal dollars.
Most recently, Chafee highlighted the $500,000 he secured for a breast cancer center in North Providence and $11 million he obtained to make long-delayed improvements to the Warren Bridge of East Bay, R.I. "I sincerely hope that Mayor Laffey would not characterize an important project that will enhance treatment of breast cancer as an example of wasteful spending," Chafee said.
The debate over earmarks is expected to heat up as the primary election in Rhode Island on September 12 nears. Polls show both Republicans running neck and neck.