Sunday, July 12, 2009

Don Mitchell Revises the 'Palin-as-Public-Ethics-Champ' Story

With years as a politically active Alaskan and a week's worth of perspective on Palin's decision to resign, Don Mitchell offers a very plausible explanation the Governor's decision over at Alaska Dispatch.

There's a lot of interesting new story and interpretation here. Did you know that Palin was "reportedly livid" when Gov. Murkowski didn't appoint her to fill his vacant US Semate seat?
In December 2002 when Frank was sworn into office, Alaska's election law allowed Governor Murkowski to appoint Senator Murkowski's replacement. Sarah had enough juice to get on the long list of Republicans Frank interviewed. During her interview she came off as vapid and uninformed. But that's not how Sarah saw it. Several weeks later Frank astounded Alaskans by giving his Senate seat to his daughter, Lisa, who had never been publicly mentioned as a candidate for the seat and who had not been interviewed. Sarah, a 38-year-old former small town mayor who had never won a statewide election, reportedly was livid and reportedly never fully forgave Frank, because in her self-absorption she was certain that she should have been the obvious choice.
But most interesting to me was his rewriting of the story of Sarah Palin, ethicist for the people.

Mitchell talks about how she was appointed as the public member of the Oil and Gas Commission, even though she had no experience at all in oil and gas. He also points out how the position didn't require such expertise at the time, though that has since been changed.

Within weeks of her arrival at the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Sarah knew she was drowning. That she had no understanding of, and no interest in, the Commission's highly technical work. And not only that, but, like every state employee, she was expected to be at work five mornings a week. To get to the Commission's office in Anchorage required an hour commute from Wasilla that during the winter she had to make by driving in the pitch dark down an icy, moose-strewn highway. [Moose-strewn? A little color for the Outside readers?]

So according to people who knew her at the time, soon after she arrived at the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Sarah began searching for a face-saving excuse to quit a job she never should have been given.

She picked up on an issue raised by Ethan Burkowitz during the confirmation hearing of another Oil and Gas Commission member - Republican Party Chair Rudy Ruedrich. Berkowitz had asked how a party chair could ethically regulate people he would, as party chair, be asking money from?

For several months thereafter Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioner Palin, who also served as the Commission's ethics officer, had no ethical problem with Randy Ruedrich serving as a Commissioner. But then she suddenly had a huge, and very public, problem when the news leaked that during his workday Ruedrich had been using his office computer to conduct Alaska Republican Party business.

The year previous when she had been a candidate in the Republican primary election for the party's nomination for Lieutenant Governor, Sarah not only had used her computer in the Wasilla mayor's office for campaign purposes, she had used it to communicate about the progress of her campaign with Randy Ruedrich. But now she not only expressed outrage about Ruedrich's ethical lapse, she had the brazen temerity to file an ethics complaint against him. And then in a public fit of professed pique, in January 2004 she quit the Commission because, since the Attorney General's investigation of Ruedrich's violation of the Alaska Ethics Act was ongoing, she was precluded from publicly discussing what she knew about it. As Sarah went out of her way to tell the Anchorage Daily News, the state's largest newspaper: "I'm forced to withhold information from Alaskans, and that goes against what I believe in as a public servant."

There's a lot more in Mitchell's post. I can neither confirm nor dispute Mitchell's factual characterizations. But I think they add a lot more information to the public discussion of who Sarah Palin is. Eventually, with enough accounts, we will be able to sort through them, find which facts seem to stick and which seem to lack substance. Eventually we'll get a clearer picture of the phenomenon of Sarah Palin.

Mitchell's track record as, among other things, the most comprehensive chronicler of the history of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (and volume 2) gives him more credibility than most.


  1. As I posted at the Dispatch, Mitchell's is the best article I've read there.

    Taken together with yesterday's pretty damning Fairtbanks News-Miner editorial about her press relations, this is important information.

  2. Is HRH Palin threatening to sue this guy now or what?

  3. Thanks for posting this. The AK Dispatch article by Mitchell is one of the best I've read.

  4. Though not a fan of Palin, Mitchell's characterization of her baby as "damaged baby Trig" in the original posting is reprehensible. Though I do not discount the the entire article because of this error in judgment, it still is something for which I believe he owes everyone, most especially Sarah and Trig, an apology owing to his lapse into insensitivity.

    It's not about her kids, sir -- nor should we give her further fuel to make it so. It's about her abject failure, her manifest ineptitude and incompetence.


  5. French did a real disservice to Alaska, and to my thinking failed in his job in the legislature since THEIR job is to be a check and balance on the executive branch.

    I will not be voting for French, or anyone who puts personal ambition ahead of the best interest of this state.

    I was outraged that the legislature did nothing, absolutely nothing after finding Paling guilty in Troopergate. It was not only a waste of $100,000 but their lack of even a censure of Palin sent her the message that she could give it to Alaska in the rear and was not even going to use vaseline.

    I am so pissed I could just spit. When French announced he was running, my first thought was to wonder if the legislature's failure to act was politically motivated.

    The damage this woman has done to Alaska and the potential damage she can still do to this country makes the lack of action on the part of the legislature unconscionable.

    Alaska's government is corrupt and I am afraid French just wants to get his hand in the honey comb as much as any politician.

    This is a nonpartisan comment as I am registered as and vote as "undeclared."

    I vote for honesty, not party.

  6. This is Alaska. It's a small population state. I suggest you call Sen. French up and tell him what you think and give him a chance to respond.

    I'm not saying you're wrong, but I do know that while he was the Senate President, he was also a member of the minority party and his leadership depended on working with Republicans. But given the Republicans who are dissing Palin today, maybe that's not a good excuse.

    Here's his contact info:

    716 W. 4th Ave Ste 420
    Anchorage, AK 99501
    fax: 907-269-0238

  7. Well, according to the description she doesn't seem to be a highly-qualified lady. What is her qualification, if I may ask? In Hungary when you get a job usually they require more or less education (I mean high school diploma, university degree, whatever) to get these jobs. There is also an interview part when they can talk with the candidates and decide who is the most suitable for that position. I have to admit that it can be a bit corrupt sometimes because it makes your life easier if you know some influental people.

  8. Ropi, her qualifications for Oil and Gas Commission member were that she was a member of the public and that she had helped in getting Gov. Murkowski elected. Now, often, the public member does not have a lot of technical information about the subject, but is supposed to be an outsider view. But this was a very technical commission. They've since changed the the requirements, according to Mitchell, so that the public member also has knowledge about oil and gas.

    This was a political appointment, not just a regular job.

  9. Yes but in Hungary the leaders of the country have usually Masters at some political, economical, etc... studies.

    I checked her and she has BA at journalism. Here she wouldn't have any political success.


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