Palin Will Continue to Steal Cookies, She Says.

10 11 2008

cookies

A newly released interview of Sarah Palin by KTUU and the Anchorage Daily News has left me speechless. I had to listen to it twice before I could really believe it. It’s a little over nine minutes, but it’s so filled with red meat, it’s going to keep me busy all day.

Here’s the first installment:

Remember “per diem gate”? It was one of Sarah’s many “gates” that came to light shortly after her nomination, and was revealed at the same time as “travel gate,” both of which were discovered by the Washington Post back in early September. It was a little embarrassing that we needed the Washington Post to discover our governor’s dirty little financial secrets, but it was better to know than not know. This one may not have incensed the average voter in the rest of the country, but up here, the implications were huge.

Alaskans are not pleased by fiscal shenanigans. We are a frugal people and wasteful spending is not going to win you fans. Fiscal conservatism is the mantra that gets people into office. Remember former Governor Murkowski and his spendy private jet? Part of Palin’s fiscal conservative label came from selling that jet, which had become a symbol of outrageous spending that a sitting governor charged to the state. Here’s the background:

Washington Post – Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a “per diem” allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.The governor also has charged the state for travel expenses to take her children on official out-of-town missions. And her husband, Todd, has billed the state for expenses and a daily allowance for trips he makes on official business for his wife.

Palin, who earns $125,000 a year, claimed and received $16,951 as her allowance, which officials say was permitted because her official “duty station” is Juneau, according to an analysis of her travel documents by The Washington Post.

The governor’s daughters and husband charged the state $43,490 to travel, and many of the trips were between their house in Wasilla and Juneau, the capital city 600 miles away, the documents show.

Now, this is a sore spot with many Alaskans. Palin is not a fan of Juneau. She’s there as little as she can possibly manage. State lawmakers even wore buttons saying “Where’s Sarah?” in protest. Working in Juneau is part of the job. It is, after all, our state’s capitol, even though some wish it wasn’t. There have been a couple attempts to move the capitol from Juneau to Wasilla, or another location that is on the road system. But for right now, travel to Juneau by plane is just part of the package and everyone knows that going in.

From the Juneau Empire:

“Palin has spent little time in Juneau, rarely coming to the state capitol except when the Legislature was in session, and sometimes not even then. During a recent special session called by Palin herself, she faced criticism from several legislators for not showing up personally to push for her agenda. Someone at the Capitol even printed up buttons asking, ‘Where’s Sarah?’”

Many Alaskans figured that the fact that Palin was charging the state a per diem fee, while in the act of shunning our state capitol so she could stay home in Wasilla would be her undoing. THEN when we found out about her children showing up at events when they were uninvited, unexptected, and on the state’s dime, that was just too much. Swanky hotel rooms for her daughters, expensive multiple one-way flights…you could almost feel the fiscal conservatives, and budget watchdogs bristling. She was going to be in biiiiig trouble.

So, right up front in this interview came the question:

Q: One of the things that came up during the campaign is that you charged the state per diem for time spent here in Wasilla. Is that something that you are going to continue to do?

Palin: Oh, we’ve always followed the law and fully disclosed all that and the choice there in many months of the Juneau mansion being replumbed and um all the …all the improvements being made in the infrastructure in the Juneau house where we weren’t gonna be there anyway, knowing that in the end it would have cost the state more money to do what other governors had done and that is either charge the state for hotel rooms or the state renting an apartment like they did for Governor Murkowski. We said no, we just won’t sell our house knowing that we’re going to spend quite a bit of time here, especially those months when the remodels were taking place in the Governor’s mansion, and we would disclose my per diem. We wouldn’t try to hide it. But as long as this is about full disclosure, not trying to take anything from the state, just trying to do my job and part of my job is with the first family, having them with me at some of these events. I’m going to continue to do my job, and my family is going to continue to be a part of it.

She’d rather work from home, so she did. She says It would have cost the state more to have her working in Juneau where her actual job was located, but she didn’t feel like being in Juneau, so she decided to work from elsewhere, and charge the state for meals and incidental traveling expenses despite the fact she was eating in her own kitchen and sleeping in her own bed. And she charged the state for travel expenses to stay home. And somehow this is OK. And the state of Alaska paying for Bristol’s fancy New York hotel and over $20,000 in family travel? That’s OK too.

It was as though Sarah was caught with her hand in the cookie jar when mom and dad walked into the kitchen and turned on the light. “What do you have to say for yourself, Sarah?” ask Mom & Dad. “Well, Mom and Dad, I’m not doing anything wrong, and I’m fully disclosing the fact that I’m taking cookies, and I’m going to continue to do that.” Huh? This is one of those moments as a parent when you have to think long and hard about how you react, because there’s obviously a fundamental lack of understanding about who is in charge, and how this relationship works.

So…..what do Mom and Dad (the State Legislature) do? If you listen to legislators, they’re sounding awfully concilliatory lately, and it’s making those who want to hold Palin accountable uneasy to say the least. I’ve heard Democratic legislators saying that we all need to work together for the good of the state, and they’ve worked with Sarah in the past, and we all need to march ahead and let the healing begin, and so on. I’ve heard them squirm around about the makeup of the new Legislature, and that there aren’t as many Democrats as they would have liked. I’ve heard them cite the fact that Alaska voters have given Palin a 61% approval rating as evidenced by how many voted for the McCain-Palin ticket. In other words, the Alaska State Legislature sounds an awful lot like the U.S. House of Representatives under George W. Bush. If only things were different, we could hold him accountable to the law….sigh….

I am assuming that all members of the Legislature will be watching this video, and I hope that each and every one of them realizes what it is. It is a dare. As a matter of fact, it’s a double-dog-dare. The Governor has just said that she is going to continue being unethical, and she’s going to do it right. in. your. face. “What are YOU going to do about it?” says the child with her hand in the cookie jar.

So, what are you going to do about it, Mom and Dad Legislature? You have two choices.

1) Well…..OK, honey. But you really shouldn’t have done that. You can keep taking cookies but you just need to let Mommy and Daddy know first, OK? Kiss on forehead.

2) Listen young lady. We don’t need any of your backtalk. Put that cookie down and go to your room because we need to have a serious conversation.

It’s your choice Legislature. Alaskans are tired of corruption. And don’t forget that Palin may still have a 60% approval rating, but before her VP run, it was over 80%. The more we know, the less we like. And Alaska voters don’t get to vote on the law. It’s not a popularity contest to see who has to obey the law and who doesn’t. Dealing with law is YOUR job. That’s why we put you there.

I hope there are some strong statements forthcoming from our elected officials. I don’t think I voted to have representation that gets cowed by a kid who just got nailed swiping cookies.

(More to come on this interview.)

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Troopergate’s Strange Bedfellows.

22 09 2008

Alaska politics is making strange bedfellows these days. Last week Wasilla conservative Republican, and Alaska State Senate President Lyda Green spoke with KUDO, the progressive talk radio station. Green was one of Palin’s mentors at the beginning of her career. But years went by, and the two began to disagree. There were power-plays, and barbs thrown. Palin appeared on a conservative radio program in which the DJ said he was going to say what Palin couldn’t about Green. “She’s a B**ch!” Response from Palin? Giggling. “She’s a cancer!” More giggling. And yes, Lyda Green is a cancer survivor. Eventually, Green decided that she no longer could work for the Legislature while Palin was governor. Her constituents were rabidly pro-Palin and the writing was on the wall. So Green announced she would not be running for re-election in November. This was big news when it happened, back in the day when we weren’t in the national spotlight.

So Lyda Green, who was intensely disliked by the Democratic Party (although they never called her names on the air) made an I-have-nothing-to-lose appearance on KUDO. She came right out and said that the investigation should and would proceed, and that nothing had changed. We were seeking the truth when it all started, and we still are. What followed were calls of praise and admiration from the very ‘blue’ listening audience…. It was like something out of the Twilight Zone.

Now from the progressive community who normally wants to see his head on a pike,there’s another uber-conservative pundit who is engendering praise – Dan Fagan. Dan Fagan is a notorious right wing radio talking head, turned columnist in the Anchorage Daily News. The ADN is frequently criticized by the vast right-wing community in Anchorage as being a “socialist rag”. So they hired Dan Fagan, and now they can say “Well, what about Dan Fagan??” and cross their arms. Fagan frequently talks in matter-of-fact terms about “liberal bias” in the media, and now he has a “liberal media” nest in which to comfortably perch, and continue to do just that. And anyone unfortunate enough to walk under the nest will likely have a ‘deposit’ land on their head.

But there is one thing that Dan Fagan is not at the moment, and that is a Palin fan. If you’ll recall the emails from Sarah Palin’s hacked Yahoo! account that made it on the web, there was an exchange between Palin and her Lt. Governor Sean Parnell, bemoaning Fagan’s treatment of Parnell (a congressional candidate at the time) during his appearance as a guest on Fagan’s radio show. In Palin’s email response, she said,

“His fighting you reveals some evil stuff going on with him. Does he want someone OPPOSED to the life issue in Congress?”

“Evil?” Zounds! Fagan’s been called a lot of names, but I don’t think he’s ever been called ‘evil’. And, do we infer that Palin thinks that everyone out there who believes in reproductive choice has “evil stuff going on” with them?

This brings us to today. Fagan has come out with an interesting opinion piece in the Anchorage Daily News. Here’s a bit of what he had to say:

The real damage to Palin from Troopergate comes with an injury claim involving trooper Wooten when he hurt his back while in the line of duty.

Independent investigator Steve Branchflower testified recently he believes someone in the governor’s office tried to block Wooten’s workers’ compensation injury benefits.

Harbor Adjustment Services, the company hired by the state to process, evaluate and decide on workers’ benefit claims, had great financial incentive in bowing to pressure from the governor to deny Wooten’s injury claim.

Obviously, the state is Harbor Adjustment Services’ largest client. The owner of the company denies the governor’s office pressured her to deny Wooten’s benefits. Why wouldn’t she? Ratting out the governor could cost her the lucrative state contract.

But Branchflower says an employee with Harbor Adjustment Services contradicts the owner and has testified the governor’s office did apply pressure to deny Wooten his benefits.

Branchflower says the unnamed employee testified, “I don’t, you know, care if it’s the president who wants the claim denied. I’m not going to deny it unless I have the medical evidence to do that,”

We know the governor’s office was very interested in Wooten. Dianne Kiesel, a state employee with the Department of Administration, tells me former Palin chief of staff Mike Tibbles instructed her to walk Wooten’s personnel file over to the governor’s office.

And there is the governor’s aide, Frank Bailey, caught on tape admitting he has information that came from Wooten’s workers’ comp file.

The very file that includes pictures, taken by none other than Todd Palin, of Wooten riding a snowmachine trying to prove the trooper was not injured.

Here’s why this is all so damaging to the governor. It’s one thing to try to get a trooper fired because you believe he is a danger to the public. But using your considerable power as governor to block the benefits of a former family member you have a long-running dispute with moves this scandal into a new realm.

It becomes about one thing and one thing only, revenge. Not public good, but settling a score.

Fagan is correct in that this angle on Troopergate hasn’t been explored deeply. We get hung up on tasers, and ex-wives, and affairs, and ‘rogue cops’, but the thing that may stick, is Palin’s tampering with the worker’s compensation claim. With Al Capone, it was tax evasion…you just never know.

It was only a week or so ago that the unnamed employee from Harbor Adjustment Services came out with her information to investigator Stephen Branchflower’s “tip line”. And it has also only recently been revealed that part of the file includes photos of Wooten on a snowmachine, taken by Todd Palin while he was out collecting evidence to use against Wooten. Yes, at one point our “First Dude” Todd Palin was following Mike Wooten around to ‘get something’ on him.

John Cyr, the head of the PSEA (the Troopers’ union), who was interviewed extensively on Anchorage’s KUDO radio says that if those 1100 emails the Palin administration is withholding (claiming executive privilege) were released, they would show that Palin had used her office to keep tabs on Wooten. Cyr, who filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the documents was told it would cost $88,000 to fulfill his request. “That seems a little steep,” said Cyr, “and suspicious.”

19 days and counting until special investigator Stephen Branchflower’s report on his findings in this investigation.