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Santorum tries to stick 'earmarker' label back on Perry

Chris Keane / Reuters

Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum greets supporters Wednesday during a campaign stop at the Historic Springdale House & Gardens, West Columbia, S.C.

 

RIDGEWAY, S.C. -- Recently the target of Rick Perry’s accusations that he wasted federal funds through congressional earmarks, Rick Santorum said on Wednesday the Texas governor had plenty of earmarking experience himself.

Perry has criticized Santorum over his federal earmarking record for weeks. On Tuesday at a town hall, Perry said that "people like Rick Santorum" wasted taxpayer dollars through earmarks, which he called "the gateway drug to big spending in Washington."  

Speaking after a town hall here, Santorum turned that criticism back on Perry.


"Rick Perry requested 1,200 earmarks as governor of Texas," Santorum said to reporters in the jam-packed restaurant where the event was held. "It’s sort of hard for somebody who’s been in public life and elected office for 25 years to be the outsider when he also requested over a thousand earmarks from Washington, D.C."

Santorum also defended his role in allocating federal funds, saying it was his job to make sure the money was being responsibly spent.

"There were abusive earmarks that I supported ending," Santorum said.

And when asked whether he considered himself an insider -- assuming that the criteria for that moniker was having requested or allocating money -- Santorum said he had been a "reformer" in Washington, but he also seemed to embrace his residency there.

"If you look at my record, I’ve been as much of a reformer and someone who’s been able to shake things up both from the inside and the outside as anybody else. But do I have experience? You bet I do!"

Santorum’s speech to about 50 people in this tiny Midlands town was mostly geared toward the economy and bringing manufacturing jobs back to small-town USA.

"We’ve put together a plan that is really focused on Ridgeway. Really focused on Fairfield County," he said. "Making things here in America is what built small town America."

He also criticized President Barack Obama for fomenting "class warfare," taking an approach similar to Mitt Romney's recent talks, including his New Hampshire primary victory speech Tuesday when he decried the "politics of envy."

"There are people in America who are not doing very well but they don’t sit at home every night and then have envy toward those who are succeeding,"Santorum said.

"The idea that President Obama’s put out there that we should pit one group against another for political purposes is really unknown to America."