As president, Barack Obama would work to “restore” federal anticrime aid to states and localities, but John McCain’s support is for such programs is less certain. That was the message of campaign representatives yesterday to the Police Executive Research Forum’s violent crime summit in Washington, D.C. Former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, representing Obama, pledged to restore funds to the COPS and Byrne-JAG programs, both cut sharply during the Bush administration. Holder said Obama had assured him that law enforcement would be a high priority. Holder did not commit to any particular budget figure. Laurie Robinson, an assistant Attorney General under Bill Clinton, said that federal leadership on crime has been “missing in action” under Bush. She said that the National Institute of Justice, the federal crime-research agency, would get “greater resources and visibility” under Obama.
Representing McCain, former Deputy Attorney General George Terwilliger said the Republican is committed to support law enforcement, including a continuation of the COPS program, which was started by Clinton. However, Terwilliger repeated McCain’s opposition to congressional earmarks, which have taken up much of the available federal anticrime spending and are “totally out of control.” Asked about a funding level for anticrime programs, Terwilliger said, “I didn’t bring Senator McCain’s check book.” Both Terwilliger and Manus Cooney, former chief counsel to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Ut), cited McCain’s support of legislation that includes higher penalties for sexual predators. Terwilliger resisted any suggestion that homeland security funding be cut in favor of traditional anticrime projects, saying that despite today’s “budgetary pressure,” this is “no time to let down our guard.”