Left at the Dock

Washington State Ferries give the Seattle Weekly the boot over the art with this week’s cover story on Sen. Patty Murray’s prolific earmarks.

This week’s edition of the Seattle Weekly has been pulled off the distribution shelves on Washington State Ferries because of a cover that a WSF spokeswoman describes as “distasteful.”

The Weekly's "distasteful" cover art.

To a less sensitive eye the illustration is actually a rather clever parody of the recent buzz over pop singer Lady Gaga’s meat dress costume. And, more to the point, the stunning decision to remove it deprives ferry passengers of at least the convenience of having Laura Onstot’s fine and balanced article, “Patty Murray, The Naked Truth,” about the Senator’s record of bringing federal funds to Washington state and how that record is playing out in the current election battle between Murray and Republican challenger Dino Rossi.

Among other findings in Onstot’s article:

*Murray has been dubbed “Pork Patty” by the group Taxpayers for Common Sense,” because of her success, relative to others in the Senate, in pulling federal dollars to her home state. As the 4th ranking Democrat in the Senate, and chair of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, Murray (for the 2010 budget) was able to land $219.5 million for 190 federal projects in Washington.

*Murray ranks #9 among U.S. Senators in her success at winning earmarked funds for her state.

*Some of the Senator’s earmarks are egregious and Onstot points to a 2005 project (also supported by Congressmen Norm Dicks and Brian Baird) where Murray pulled $17.6 million to Guardian Marine International (which backs Murray financially) for a speedboat the U.S. Navy didn’t want and wound up donating to the University of Washington.

*Still, Onstot found that only 18% of the funds Murray brought to Washington went to benefit companies whose owners or employees gave financial support to her campaign. Among the earmarks in this category is a $490,000 appropriation for Spokane’s Northeast Community Center in 2008 that went to fund a health clinic for poor people. This compares with Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama whose earmarks for his state were connected 44% of the time to companies supporting his re-election.

Onstot also reports that while Rossi has picked up on the “Pork Patty” theme to denounce his opponent as a federal budget buster, his campaign has been reluctant to renounce earmarks altogether.

Given the WSF’s decision to bar the issue, it’s a fair question whether the ferry system is protecting a patron. The Weekly reports that Murray was “furious” when the ferry system was left out of the recent recovery act funding and then worked to get $7 million for WSF.

WSF spokesperson Marta Coursey denied this in an interview posted yesterday by the Weekly’s Chris Korelius.

“It’s just a matter of putting a woman in a meat suit is [sic] just not something we would condone?”

Which raises the question: If this isn’t government censorship, what is it?

–CFJ

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