POLITICS AND STIMULUS SPENDING DON’T MIX…. Once in a while, it pays to read the whole article, not just the headline and first few paragraphs.

USA Today did an analysis of the stimulus funds spent so far and found that counties that supported President Obama in the election are getting far more money, per person, than counties that backed John McCain. Some conservatives are, of course, outraged, alleging that the administration has launched an intentional political scheme to reward “blue” areas with federal funds.

At Townhall, Carol Platt Liebau argued that USA Today‘s findings are evidence of “the problem with government control,” adding, “One of the problems with big government is that politics creeps into everything.”

Except, that’s not what the article actually says. Yes, the 872 counties that supported Obama have received, on average, about $69 per person, while the 2,234 that supported McCain received about $34. But the details matter.

Much of [the funding] has followed a well-worn path to places that regularly collect a bigger share of federal grants and contracts, guided by formulas that have been in place for decades and leave little room for manipulation. […]

Investigators who track the stimulus are skeptical that political considerations could be at work. The imbalance is so pronounced — and the aid so far from complete — that it would be almost inconceivable for it to be the result of political tinkering, says Adam Hughes, the director of federal fiscal policy for the non-profit OMB Watch. “Even if they wanted to, I don’t think the administration has enough people in place yet to actually do that,” he says.

This isn’t even new or unique to the stimulus. From 2005 through 2007, the article noted, counties that supported Obama “collected about 50% more government aid than those that supported McCain.”

I’ll leave it to conservative bloggers to explain how Obama’s team managed to pull this trick off when the federal government was run by a Republican Congress and a Republican White House.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.