The acknowledgment by the Miller campaign that he accepted farm subsidies follows a story by the Alaska Dispatch, which discovered through a Freedom of Information Act request that he got $7,235 in subsidies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1991-97.
It drew a sharp response from critics, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which headlined a news release: "Extremist Joe Miller also a hypocrite."
Separately, a blog last week reported that Miller, an attorney, received subsidies for land in Alaska. The campaign called that a "manufactured story from a Democratic blog," and said that the land Miller has owned in Alaska isn't under production and has received no federal farm subsidies.
Miller, a self-described "constitutional conservative" who believes federal spending must be reined in, won last month's GOP primary over U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, whom he'd cast as part of the problem in an out-of-control Washington.
Miller's message of less government has resonated with conservatives and the nascent tea party movement in Alaska, a still-young state that's long relied heavily on federal money and earmarks to operate and to build up and maintain its infrastructure. Miller has called for less government regulation and giving Alaska greater control over its resource base so it can take charge of its own future and wean itself off what he considers an overdependence on government.
Miller spokesman Randy DeSoto said Miller isn't against all federal spending, "but one could argue, since he's calling for some belt tightening as a nation, why not start by forgoing these subsidies himself?" He answered his question, saying, in part, that in Kansas, in the '90s, some of the crops grown on Miller's land were eligible for aid, and "The government offers these payments in exchange for farmers growing certain crops."
"Like the vast majority of farmers in that region, Joe received payment from the USDA in exchange for managing his crops according to government standards," DeSoto said, adding that Miller sold some of the roughly 140 acres he had in Kansas when he moved to Alaska in the early '90s and the rest by 1998.
DeSoto said it would be different if Miller was currently receiving subsidies, which he isn't. He said Miller isn't a hypocrite.
DeSoto could not confirm the amount in subsidies that Miller received.
Steve Wackowski, a spokesman for Murkowski, who is mounting a write-in campaign, said Miller should have spoken up and acknowledged the subsidies earlier. Wackowski said it speaks to Miller's character that he did not.
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokeswoman Deirdre Murphy said Miller's "just another hypocritical politician with one set of rules for himself and one for everyone else."