February 24, 2009

Bill Adair came on the set of Morning Joe and obviously disappointed the cast there when he informed them that the right wing talking point from the GOP that there was money in the stimulus bill for San Francisco mice was a load of bunk. That didn't stop Joe and the gang from trying desperately to cling to the notion that they weren't misinforming the public with their "reporting" on the mouse story.

More on this from Adair's site PolitiFact:

To hear Republican House members tell it, you'd think House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stuffed $30 million into the stimulus bill to benefit an endangered mouse in her district.

Rep. Steve King of Iowa called it an earmark and "a pet project" while pointing to a sign he made that said "Pelosi's Mouse slated for $30 Million."

Rep. John Boehner of Ohio opposed the bill and asked how money "for some salt marsh mouse in San Francisco is going to help a struggling autoworker in Ohio?"

And Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana said on Fox News that there was "$30 million in there to protect mice in San Francisco."

The tale of the mouse appears to have originated around Feb. 6, 2009, from Republican staff members of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee.

"Appropriations Republicans, concerned with this irresponsible process and possible abuse of taxpayer funds, have asked various federal agencies how they intend to spend the windfall of cash that Congress may approve in the 'stimulus' bill," said a memo posted to the site. "One peek behind the bureaucratic curtain has yielded the following examples of hidden program information that is not included in the language of the bill or report . These are programs which various federal agencies have privately indicated they will fund with 'stimulus' money."

The memo lists a number of projects, including up to $37.5 million for "wetland restoration in the San Francisco Bay Area — including work to protect the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse."

That became fodder for a Feb. 11 e-mail from Michael Steel, Boehner's spokesman. "Thirty million dollars for wetland restoration in the San Francisco Bay Area — including work to protect the Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse," Steel wrote. "This sounds like spending projects that have been supported by a certain powerful Democrat in the past. And it certainly doesn't sound like it will create or save American jobs."

That e-mail made it into a Feb. 12 story in the Washington Times headlined "Pelosi's mouse slated for $30M slice of cheese." The story stated, incorrectly as it turns out, that the stimulus bill "includes $30 million for wetlands restoration that the Obama administration intends to spend in the San Francisco Bay Area to protect, among other things, the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse."

And that story was then picked up by the Drudge Report.

That's when the mouse references exploded, morphing from a possible project of an unnamed agency to Pence's "$30 million in there to protect mice in San Francisco."

We wanted to get to the bottom of this issue and find out what was up with the mouse.

Turns out the salt marsh harvest mouse is a previously obscure beneficiary of a major environmental restoration project for the San Francisco Bay area.

"A friend e-mailed me and asked me if any of the $30 million for the mouse was for us, and I was like 'What are you talking about?'" said Steve Ritchie, an engineer with the California State Coastal Conservancy, a state agency charged with preserving and restoring the coastline.

You can read the rest of the post here.

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