House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office says there is no truth to Idaho Sen. Jim Risch’s contention today that the federal stimulus package contains $50 million to save the “red-breasted harvest mouse” in Pelosi’s California district. Drew Hammill, spokesman for Pelosi, called the story about the mice “a total fabrication.” It apparently originated a week ago in talking points distributed by Republicans in Congress, charging that $30 million would go to the mouse. That, it turned out, was the entire amount the California State Coastal Conservancy, a state agency, had put together to show its “shovel-ready” projects eligible for stimulus funding, the San Jose Mercury-News reported. Those included five major wetlands restoration projects including some involving salt marshes, where the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse lives. However, Pelosi’s office said there are none in San Francisco. The conservancy is involved in a major restoration of the South Bay Salt Ponds south of San Francisco, but that’s not in Pelosi’s district, a small, urban district concentrated in the city.
Brad Hoaglun, Risch’s director of communications and senior adviser, said, “That’s good to know - I’ll make sure the senator doesn’t say it any more. That was apparently in there last week.” Hoaglun said the issue shows the complexity of the 1,100-page stimulus bill. He had no explanation for why Risch claimed the mouse would get $50 million, when last week’s claims were that it would get $30 million. “This was something that last week everyone was saying was in the bill,” he said. “It was part of talking points that circulated on Capitol Hill.”