Rand Paul: I Am Not An Earmarker! (VIDEO)

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Kentucky’s incoming Senator is pushing back hard on critics who claim he has sold out when it comes to earmarks. Republican Rand Paul told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer today that concerns that he backed away from his pledge to refuse federally-funded pet projects, a key tenet of his tea party-fueled campaign, just aren’t warranted.

“I won’t use earmarks as a senator,” Paul told Blitzer. As he had on the campaign trail, Paul said earmarking “shows some of the abuse of Washington” and promised he won’t be among the Senators who participate in the process. But that doesn’t mean he won’t try to get money for Kentucky through the open appropriations process.

Conservatives got upset at Paul after a Wall Street Journal article from the weekend reported Paul had offered a “shift” on “his campaign pledge to end earmarks.” That led National Review to worry Paul was “selling out already.”

On CNN, Paul dismissed the article. In a flashback to the campaign trail — when Paul’s early national media appearances haunted him for months — the Sen.-elect said the Journal had misquoted him and demanded a correction.“We called him and asked him to correct that,” Paul said of Journal scribe Matthew Kaminski, who conducted the interview. “I never, ever said earmark.”

Paul isn’t the only one claiming he’s still an anti-earmark warrior. Mike Connolly of the Club For Growth — the conservative economic think tank with a serious aversion to earmarks — told me this afternoon he still counts Paul among the incoming Senators the Club hopes will help end earmarking once and for all.

[TPM SLIDESHOW: Meet Your New U.S. Senators]

Paul was among the many Republicans on the campaign trail this year to sign a no-earmark pledge. He said today he stands by that promise.

“I’m not changing that pledge,” Paul told Blitzer. “That’s a steadfast pledge.”

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