Facebook Twitter Tumblr Close Skip to main content
A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Pork Radio

Former GOP presidential nominee John McCain is running attack ads again — this time against a fellow Republican who may contest his Senate seat this year.

Hotline’s Reid Wilson has the script for a new radio spot McCain is running against former congressman (and current Arizona radio personality) J.D Hayworth, who has been making moves toward a primary challenge against McCain.

The ad says that Hayworth "sounds conservative on the radio, but J.D. was one of the biggest spenders in Congress. In 2005, they passed a bill with six thousand five hundred pork barrel earmarks worth more than twenty four billion dollars. J.D. voted for every one."

It’s true that then-Rep. Hayworth voted in 2005 for the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act, which was reported to have included 6,371 earmarks, according to the Washington Post. And the leaders of six taxpayer and conservative groups wrote a letter to then-President Bush saying that the law included "nearly 6,500 member-requested projects worth more than $24 billion."

McCain was one of only four senators, all Republicans, to vote against the allegedly pork-laden bill. But Hayworth "voted for every one" of the earmarks only in the sense that he supported the entire bill. So did all but eight House members, all Republicans. But the earmark items didn’t come up for separate votes on the House floor. Rather, earmarks are inserted into the bill by individual members and senators. We explained more about earmarks in our Ask FactCheck, "What Is an Earmark?"

McCain strains the facts when he portrays himself as more of a fiscal conservative than Hayworth. In fact, both McCain and Hayworth have been recognized as "taxpayer heroes" by the anti-pork watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste. The group assigned McCain a lifetime voting record of 88 percent, while Hayworth’s House career earned him a rating of 89 percent.