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US Senate candidate and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina celebrates her primary win at the California Republican Party event on California Primary Election night at the Anaheim Hilton on June 8, 2010 in Anaheim, California. Fiorina hopes to unseat Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer who is in a virtual tie with Republican challenger Tom Campbell, according to a recent poll.
WASHINGTON — Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina is criticizing Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer over a fundraiser sponsored by lobbyists who help local governments and agencies obtain federal earmarks.
Fiorina has pledged not to seek earmarks, which pay for specific projects such as road improvements or university research. Her campaign says the fundraiser scheduled for Thursday demonstrates Boxer's efforts to seek federal money for those who donate to her re-election campaign.
Fiorina's campaign points to earmarks totaling $6.7 million that Boxer has requested over the past three years for California agencies and communities represented by the Washington lobbying firm, Alcade and Fay.
Boxer's campaign manager, Rose Kapolczynski, rejected the suggestion of a quid pro quo for companies that donate campaign cash.
"There is absolutely no connection between campaign contributions and official Senate actions, period," Kapolczynski said.
The firm's web site lists numerous California clients, including the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District. The Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks earmarks, said Boxer obtained $1.9 million in the 2010 fiscal year for construction work designed to help the bridge withstand a major earthquake.
The firm's website also lists the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District as a client. Boxer requested $2.5 million during the past fiscal year for the project, which involves upgrading existing rail lines and building new bike and pedestrian paths linking 14 stations.
Officials with Fiorina's campaign say they don't dispute the merits of the projects funded with the earmarks and acknowledge that Fiorina also received fundraising help from lobbying firms, including $39,350 in direct contributions. But Julie Soderlund, her deputy campaign manager, said the fundraiser shows Boxer is engaged in a "practice of taking campaign contributions in exchange for securing earmarks."
Kapolczynski said Boxer sought money for the bridge and rail projects because they will reduce traffic and create jobs. She said the earmarks are examples of how Boxer will fight for money that will lead to more jobs in her state.
The Center for Responsive Politics says Boxer has raised $325,000 in donations from lobbyists since 2005, which ranks her ninth in the Senate during that period.
Proceeds from Thursday's fundraiser also will go to the campaign of Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., who is chairman of the House committee that oversees transportation programs. Boxer is chairwoman of the Senate committee with that responsibility.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.