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Santorum Questions Romney’s Spending at Salt Lake Olympic Games

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(COLUMBUS, Ohio) -- On the 10th anniversary of the Salt Lake City Olympic Games, Rick Santorum went after Mitt Romney saying one of the most frequently touted achievements his rival boasts about on the trail was nothing more than an expensive earmark, taxpayers were stuck paying.

“One of Mitt Romney’s greatest accomplishments, one of the things he talks about most is how he heroically showed up on the scene and bailed out and resolved the problems of the Salt Lake City Olympic Games,” Santorum said in an angry tone to a Tea Party group.

Every time he said “heroically,” he emphasized the word, making it clear he was mocking the former Massachusetts governor.

“He heroically bailed out the Salt Lake City Olympic Games by heroically going to Congress and asking them for tens of millions of dollars to bail out the Salt Lake games — in an earmark, in an earmark for the Salt Lake Olympic games. One of his strongest supporters, John McCain, called it potentially the worst boondoggle in earmark history,” Santorum said. “And now Governor Romney is suggesting, ‘Oh, Rick Santorum earmarked,’ as he requested almost half a billion dollars in earmarks as governor of Massachusetts to his federal congressmen and senators. Does the word hypocrisy come to mind?”

The pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future is running ads in this state calling him a “big spender.” The campaign has also pounced on the earmark attack on Santorum, focusing on it for weeks sending out research e mails.

Romney was in Salt Lake City on Saturday to commemorate the anniversary of the Games. The success of the Salt Lake City Olympics is a point of pride for Romney and something he often mentions on the trail. In 2008, during his last presidential bid, he told stories from the Olympics at almost every event on the trail.

He still incorporates those stories in his current stump and so does his wife, Ann. In their home state of Michigan earlier in the week she mentioned the Games as one reason her husband is a “turnaround artist.” The Romney campaign spokesperson, Andrea Saul immediately responded to Santorum’s hit.

“Sometimes when you shoot from the hip, you end up shooting yourself in the foot. There is a pretty wide gulf between seeking money for post-9/11 security at the Olympics and seeking earmarks for polar bear exhibits at the Pittsburgh Zoo. Mitt Romney wants to ban earmarks, Senator Santorum wants more ‘Bridges to Nowhere’,” Saul said in a statement.

The former Pennsylvania senator’s line of attack is something Democrats focused on Friday, when the Democratic National Committee released a video playing on Romney’s efforts to obtain federal funds for the Olympics. The video, named The Olympic Bailout, starts with Romney speaking French and notes the $1.3 billion the Games cost, and even uses video of McCain attacking the funds, calling it “outrageous.”

Santorum defended his use of earmarks and went on to tout ones that he is proud of including defense projects, “So lets just not condemn all… there was abuse, and we stopped it. But the idea that every earmark is a bad one is simply false.”

The group of a few hundred were enthusiastic, with supporters interrupting Santorum with applause throughout his speech. At the end the candidate leaned into the crowd and said, “Will you join me? Will you join me?” to cheers from the audience.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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