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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Palin’s “Travelgate” Swings Open – Let the Fallout Begin!

29 10 2008

You know at the DMV, or the deli, when you have to pull one of those little ticket things off the roll, so you know where you are in line? They need to install one of those at the Department of Law in Alaska.

There is so much we never knew about our Governor. Nothing like being under the national magnifying glass, accompanied by a mass influx of some of the best investigative journalists in the world, to properly vet a candidate.

It feels like we were just hanging out at home, minding our business, and all of a sudden several hundred FBI agents descended on our house with fine-toothed combs, and electronic devices, and fingerprint gathering tools. We find out we may have been the victim of a crime and we didn’t even know it! Go figure.

Well, those metaphorical FBI agents (aka journalists) did a really good job. They even looked under the bed, and in the back of the sock drawer. They looked in the freezer, and they found that secret cubbyhole under the floorboards. They may not have found everything, but they sure made us think about all those other places we might look, now that we know.

Now that all these little Sarah Palin scandals have been excavated by the national press, there they lie. Right there on our dining room table with little color-coded evidence tags. They just sit, waiting for someone to come along, pick one up, examine it and say, “Heeeey. I didn’t vote for this!”

We were all promised “open, honest and transparent” government from Sarah Palin, and we find, to our amazement that what we actually got was a big steaming pile of just the opposite. Time to start taking numbers.

The first one to pull his ticket off the roll is Frank Gwartney, a retired lineman who lives in here in Anchorage. Let’s call him “Frank the Retired Lineman”. It makes him sound like one of those people Palin says she’s accountable to. He is “tired of the hypocrisy that exists in Government,” and thinks, “people need to know the truth.” This reminds us of that famous pre-VP quote that defined Sarah Palin’s rise to Governorship, “Hold me accountable.” Apparently, Frank was listening.

The complaint against Governor Palin, alleges Misuse of Official Position: “Gov. Palin attempted to and in fact did use her official position for personal gain by securing unwarranted benefits for her daughters…” All the allegations contained in the complaint are related to state reimbursed travel.

In Alaska, ethics complaints filed against the Governor are confidential. “We can neither confirm nor refute that a complaint has been filed against Governor Sarah Palin. Any complaint remains confidential unless the person being charged waives confidentiality or if the complaint progresses to the state of probable cause,” Assistant District Attorney, Dave Jones told CBS News.

Bristol, Piper and Willow, Palin’s daughters, accrued $32,629 in travel expenses while Palin’s husband Todd raked up $22,174 – all billed to the state for a total of $54,803.00.

“The Governor’s office has expended $54,803.00 in Alaska state dollars for family travel since December 2006,” according to the Governor’s Administrative Services Director, Linda Perez. “The documentation related to family travel has changed and you have to keep in mind that the governor and her family are very popular,” added Perez.

Sharon Leighow, Deputy Communications Director, said “Governor Palin followed state policy allowing governors to charge for their children’s travel and there’s also the expectation that the first family participate in community activities across the state.”

We all know the drill. Here’s what happens next. Attorney General Talis Colberg will refer the complaint to…..The Personnel Board. Those guys are busy these days! Still wrestling with the second incarnation of the Troopergate investigation, they now have another item on their expanding “To Do” list. Then the board decides if the conduct would violate the ethics ace if it were found to be true. If it would, then they go through the process of hiring an independent investigator. Much happens out of the spotlight, but after interviews, and evidence gathering, and when the board reaches a decision, they make recommendations to impose penalties, and/or disciplinary action. The process may take several weeks, or several months.

Governor Palin would be advised to get used to this. Grassroots discontent can be a formidable thing. You never know who will show up to pull the next ticket. Frank Gwartney? Who’s that guy?  The answer is:  The first guy in line.

Anyone worried that Alaska political junkies will have nothing to talk about after this election can rest easy.

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