Tag Archives: Federal Earmarks

Pallin’ Around With The Liberal Media

Exiting Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

Exiting Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

On Monday, Eric Boehlert highlighted Time‘s upcoming cover story on Sarah Palin, titled, “The Outsider: Where is Sarah Palin Going Next?” While Palin has certainly received her share of bad press, a great deal of it has been the inevitable result of her own statements and actions. Interpretive articles like this one, however, are different and provide journalists with the chance to use their judgment to put past actions and ongoing trials in a broader context that will help readers better understand the subject at hand.

Which is why this article is so problematic. In it, Time‘s David Von Drehle and Jay Newton-Small go to immense lengths to create a story out of thin air. In this case, it’s “The Renegade,” a tale about an unconventional politician making waves with her unpredictable behavior. The piece is deeply flawed, advancing conservative narratives without challenge and ignoring obvious realities about Palin, her home state, and the problems she faces. It’s an account that flies in the face not just of progressive criticisms of the governor, but of a growing chorus of conservative ones as well.

And it is exactly the kind of ratings-driven journalism that is, ironically, making magazines like Time less and less authoritative at a time when serious journalism couldn’t be more needed.

Continue reading

Palin Returns to a Changed Alaska

Homecoming Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, her office adorned with banners and balloons, went to work in Anchorage Nov. 7 for the first time since joining the GOP presidential ticket.

Homecoming Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, her office adorned with banners and balloons, went to work in Anchorage Nov. 7 for the first time since joining the GOP presidential ticket.

Alaska has changed while Governor Sarah Palin was gone on the presidential campaign trail over the past two months.  The state’s oil driven economy has been hurt by the global financial meltdown and many Alaskans have gotten to know another, darker side of their governor, in stark contrast to the “maverick” hockey mom turned politican who took on the “good old boys” and big oil companies.  The Christian Science Monitor presents an in-depth look at the new political landscape Gov. Palin now faces in Alaska.

When she left Alaska in August to run as the Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin was a much-loved governor with approval ratings near 90 percent; a record for pursuing centrist, bipartisan policies; and a reputation as a corruption-fighter.

Her home state was awash in money, thanks to record oil prices, and residents were set to get big checks in the form of dividends from the Alaska Permanent Fund and a state tax rebate. The economic future seemed secure, with Governor Palin advancing the case for a big, new, natural-gas pipeline.

What a difference a couple of months make.

Upon her return to Alaska Nov. 5, Palin’s nonpartisan reputation is in shreds, a side effect of her role as chief attacker of Democratic rival Barack Obama. Damaged, too, is her image as ethics reformer, with questions lingering over an abuse-of-power scandal involving a feud against her sister’s ex-husband, alleged circumvention of public-records laws, concerns about state payments for her children’s travel and nights spent in her own home, and even how she acquired the haute-couture wardrobe she sported on the campaign trail.

Continue reading

What’s Ahead For Gov. Palin? Seven Challenges

Gov. Sarah Palin, back from the campaign trail, faces a changed landscape in Alaska.

Gov. Sarah Palin, back from the campaign trail, faces a changed landscape in Alaska.

It appears that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin will probably be back on the national scene in two years campaigning as the Republican candidate in the 2012 presidential election.  We here at the Sarah Palin Truth Squad have decided to continue posting information about Governor Palin in anticipation of that race.  Today the Anchorage Daily News published the following article by Tom Kizzia on the political future of Gov. Palin.

For two months she basked — and sizzled — in the world’s hottest celebrity spotlight. Now Sarah Palin has come home to begin the last two years of her term as governor of Alaska.

Everything has changed: Palin’s personal horizon, her relations with the state’s other elected officials, the public’s sense of who she is.

Palin returned to her office Friday amid a brutal crossfire between detractors and defenders in the McCain camp. At the same time, however, a new national poll said 64 percent of Republicans consider her their top choice to run for president in 2012.

Continue reading

Memo To Sarah Palin: Fruit Fly Research Has Led To Advances In Understanding Autism (Video)

Fruit flies are used in scientific research, including the study of autism

Fruit flies are used in scientific research, including the study of autism at the University of North Carolina.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, whose youngest son Trig, has Down Syndrome, is said to be a great champion for special needs children and their families.  Today Gov. Palin gave her first address on Congressional policy should she and John McCain be elected November 4th.  During her presentation she mocked the scientific study of fruit flies in Paris, France.  However, fruit flies are used by researchers to study the origins of autism, one of the special needs afflicting some of the very children Gov. Palin was discussing in her speech.

This morning, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) gave her first policy speech urging the federal government to fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), “a law ensuring services to children with disabilitiesthroughout the nation.” In the speech, Palin cited the need to do more for children with disabilities such as autism:

For many parents of children with disabilities, the most valuable thing of all is information. Early identification of a cognitive or other disorder, especially autism, can make a life-changing difference.

Palin claimed that the amount that Congress spends on earmarks “is more than the shortfall to fully fund IDEA.” She then ridiculed some of the projects – such as “fruit fly research” – saying they have little or no value:

Where does a lot of that earmark money end up anyway? […] You’ve heard about some of these pet projects they really don’t make a whole lot of sense and sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good. Things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not.

Watch it:

Palin did not specify what fruit fly research earmark she was referring to (presumably a grant for olive fruit fly research), but she is apparently unaware that scientific research with fruit flies has led to valuable discoveries that have boosted autism research, as a study at the University of North Carolina demonstrated last year:

[S]cientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have shown that a protein called neurexin is required for..nerve cell connections to form and function correctly.

The discovery, made in Drosophila fruit flies may lead to advances in understanding autism spectrum disorders, as recently, human neurexins have been identified as a genetic risk factor for autism.

The study of fruit flies has also been used for other autism research and “revolutionize[d]” the study of birth defects.

Sarah Palin Lies and Flip Flops (Video)

Sarah Palin said Yes, Thanks, to a Road To Nowhere in Alaska / Maps to Bridge & Road Projects, Including Alaska Dept. of Transportation Alternatives

In an April, 2008 file photo, dumptrucks carrying rock head towards the end of the Gravina Island road currently under construction near Ketchikan, Alaska.

In an April, 2008 file photo, dumptrucks carrying rock head towards the end of the Gravina Island road currently under construction near Ketchikan, Alaska.

In the latest chapter in the saga of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin seeking or accepting federal earmarks, we now learn that part of the funds she claims to have told Washington, D.C. “Thanks, But No Thanks” were actually used to construct a 3.2 mile road leading to nowhere, at a cost of $26 million to American taxpayers.  In an article by Erika Hayasaki, reporting for the Los Angeles Times on September 19, 2008, questions still linger as to why Gov. Palin didn’t return the money to Washington after it became apparent the Gravina Bridge project the road was to connect to was dropped due to changing political tides. 

The 3.2-mile-long partially paved “road to nowhere” meanders from a small international airport on Gravina Island, home to 50 people, ending in a cul-de-sac close to a beach.

Crews are working to finish it. But no one knows when anyone will need to drive it.

That’s because the $26-million road was designed to connect to the $398-million Gravina Island Bridge, more infamously known as the “bridge to nowhere.” Alaskan officials thought federal money would pay for the bridge, but Gov. Sarah Palin killed the project after it was ridiculed and Congress rescinded the money. Plans for the road moved forward anyway.

Some residents of Ketchikan — a city of 8,000 on a neighboring island where the bridge was to end — see the road as a symbol of wasteful spending that Palin could have curtailed. Some of them even accuse her of deception.

“Surely we won’t have to commute on the highway if there won’t be a bridge,” said Jill Jacob, who has been writing and calling the governor’s office for the last two years to protest the road. “It’s a dead-end highway, a dead-end road.”

Since Palin was named the Republican vice presidential nominee two weeks ago, she has been boasting that she told Congress that Alaska didn’t want the hundreds of millions that had been earmarked for the bridge.

But in 2006, Palin stood before residents in this region during her gubernatorial campaign and expressed support for the bridge. It became apparent after she was elected that the state’s portion would be too costly, and Palin ordered transportation officials to abandon the project.

She held on to the $223 million in federally earmarked funds for other uses, such as the Gravina road, approved by her predecessor.

“Here’s my question,” said Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein. “If Sarah Palin is not being truthful on an issue like the Gravina bridge project, what else is she not being truthful about?”

Alaska transportation officials say construction of the road began in June 2007 because the state was still hoping to build a bridge, and “you need that highway access,” said Roger Wetherell, a department spokesman.

But Weinstein, who backed the bridge project, said that Palin should have redirected the money. “If the bridge was canceled, give the money back, or get the earmark removed, or redesign the road so it’s better for development,” he said. “Especially if you’re opposed to earmarks, and now you’re telling the world you’re opposed to earmarks.”

His frustration came to a head after he heard Republican presidential nominee John McCain and Palin tout her reputation as a reformer focused on saving taxpayer money. He didn’t feel much better when a campaign ad called them “the original mavericks,” and said: “She stopped the ‘bridge to nowhere.’ ”

Weinstein need only glance across the salmon-rich waters separating his city from Gravina Island to see what he believes are millions of dollars being spent unnecessarily. Why, he asks, didn’t she stop that?

The bridge was championed by Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young, both Republicans, who pushed the project through Congress in 2005 using earmarks — the controversial practice used by lawmakers to slip targeted spending into bills without public scrutiny. But that earmark quickly became the target of widespread public criticism and was labeled the “bridge to nowhere.” Members of Congress eventually stripped the funds that had been designated for the bridge from a larger spending bill, but allowed Alaska to keep $223 million for other needs.

In September 2007, Palin canceled the bridge project, blaming a funding shortage and lack of congressional support: “Ketchikan desires a better way to reach the airport, but a $398-million bridge is not the answer,” she said in a statement.

Susan Walsh, a nurse who lives on Gravina Island, remembers attending that Chamber of Commerce meeting. When Palin withdrew her support for the bridge, Walsh figured the road project would have died with it. “It was just stupid,” she said.

Jacob, the woman who has been protesting the road for two years with a letter-writing campaign on behalf of the Tongass Conservation Society in Ketchikan, says: “We begged her to stop.”

An April 2007 letter to Palin read: “I am writing to encourage you to do away with the Gravina Access Highway. At about $8 million per mile of public money, this is a fiscal mistake.”

State officials said alternatives to the $398-million bridge could include improved ferry service or less costly bridges that would link to the Gravina road. “Gov. Palin understood that a more cost-efficient, sensible solution could still be implemented” in place of the original bridge plan, said Maria Comella, a spokeswoman for Palin’s campaign.

On a clear day recently, Mayor Weinstein flew over Gravina Island, looking down on the nearly completed road. “When Sarah Palin goes on national television and says: ‘I told Congress, “Thanks but no thanks,” ‘ it’s not true,” he said. “The implication is we didn’t take the money. But we did.”

The mayor said he was considering posting a sign on the road for the rest of the world to see. He said it would read: “Built Under Gov. Sarah Palin, Paid for With Federal Earmarks.”

Sarah Palin said Yes, Thanks, to a Road To Nowhere in Alaska

On ProPublica.org there are excellent interactive maps detailing the Gravina Island Bridge (“Bridge to Nowhere”) and the newly built Gravina Island Highway (“Road to Nowhere”).  Although various governmental watchdogs urged Governor Sarah Palin to cancel the wasteful road project, she went ahead with the construction, even though Alaska’s Department of Transportation is currently analyzing nine other alternatives, including six bridges and three ferries.

Maps to the Proposed “Bridge to Nowhere” and the newly constructed “Road to Nowhere”

Alaska Department of Transportation Alternatives to the “Bridge to Nowhere”  (PDF file)

About Sarah Palin: A Open Letter From Anne Kilkenny of Wasilla, Alaska

Wasilla, Alaska resident Anne Kilkenny wrote an extremely comprehensive, objective letter on the history of Mayor Sarah Palin and her political career starting in Wasilla, Alaska.  This letter has been published on a variety of internet forums and blogs nationwide over the past two weeks, but it is worth reprinting here for anyone who missed reading it the first time around.  Anne Kilkenny is a homemaker and education advocate in Wasilla, Alaska.  The letter was originally written to friends of Ms. Kilkenny, in which she shares her thoughts and observation about vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, whom she has personally known for many years.  ~ Sarah Palin Truth Squad

Here below is Anne Kilkenny’s open letter in its entirety.

I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Sarah since 1992. Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis. Our children have attended the same schools. Her father was my child’s favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a first name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more City Council meetings during her administration than about 99% of the residents of the city.

She is enormously popular; in every way she’s like the most popular girl in middle school. Even men who think she is a poor choice and won’t vote for her can’t quit smiling when talking about her because she is a “babe”.

It is astonishing and almost scary how well she can keep a secret. She kept her most recent pregnancy a secret from her children and parents for seven months. She is “pro-life”. She recently gave birth to a Down’s syndrome baby. There is no cover-up involved, here; Trig is her baby. She is energetic and hardworking. She regularly worked out at the gym.

She is savvy. She doesn’t take positions; she just “puts things out there” and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit. Her husband works a union job on the North Slope for BP and is a champion snowmobile racer. Todd Palin’s kind of job is highly sought-after because of the schedule and high pay. He arranges his work schedule so he can fish for salmon in Bristol Bay for a month or so in summer, but by no stretch of the imagination is fishing their major source of income. Nor has her life-style ever been anything like that of native Alaskans. Sarah and her whole family are avid hunters. She’s smart.

Her experience is as mayor of a city with a population of about 5,000 (at the time), and less than 2 years as governor of a state with about 670,000 residents. During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had given rise to a recall campaign.

Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a “fiscal conservative”. During her 6 years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over 33%. During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the City increased by 38%. This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.

The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration weren’t enough to fund everything on her wish list though, borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it with indebtedness of over $22 million. What did Mayor Palin encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? or a new library? No. $1m for a park. $15m-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex which she rushed through to build on a piece of property that the City didn’t even have clear title to, that was still in litigation 7 yrs later-to the delight of the lawyers involved! The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5m for road projects that could have been done in 5-7 yrs without any borrowing.

While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office redecorated more than once. These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city. As an oil producer, the high price of oil has created a budget surplus in Alaska. Rather than invest this surplus in technology that will make us energy independent and increase efficiency, as Governor she proposed distribution of this surplus to every individual in the state.

In this time of record state revenues and budget surpluses, she recommended that the state borrow/bond for road projects, even while she proposed distribution of surplus state revenues: spend today’s surplus, borrow for needs.

She’s not very tolerant of divergent opinions or open to outside ideasor compromise. As Mayor, she fought ideas that weren’t generated by her or her staff. Ideas weren’t evaluated on their merits, but on the basis of who proposed them.

While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin’s attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.

Sarah complained about the “old boy’s club” when she first ran for Mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of “old boys”. Palin fired most of the experienced staff she inherited. At the City and as Governor she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people, creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs and eternally grateful and fiercely loyal-loyal to the point of abusing their power to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the case of pressuring the State’s top cop (see below).

As Mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla’s Police Chief because he “intimidated” her, she told the press. As Governor, her recent firing of Alaska’s top cop has the ring of familiarity about it. He served at her pleasure and she had every legal right to fire him, but it’s pretty clear that an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn’t fire her sister’s ex-husband, a State Trooper. Under investigation for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than 2 dozen contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew her support.

She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn’t like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.

Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.

When then-Governor Murkowski was handing out political plums, Sarah got the best, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: one of the few jobs not in Juneau and one of the best paid. She had no background in oil & gas issues. Within months of scoring this great job which paid $122,400/yr, she was complaining in the press about the high salary. I was told that she hated that job: the commute, the structured hours, the work. Sarah became aware that a member of this Commission (who was also the State Chair of the Republican Party) engaged in unethical behavior on the job.

In a gutsy move which some undoubtedly cautioned her could be political suicide, Sarah solved all her problems in one fell swoop: got out of the job she hated and garnered gobs of media attention as the patron saint of ethics and as a gutsy fighter against the “old boys’ club” when she dramatically quit, exposing this man’s ethics violations (for which he was fined).

As Mayor, she had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from Senator Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel politics and publicly humiliated him. She only opposed the “bridge to nowhere” after it became clear that it would be unwise not to.

As Governor, she gave the Legislature no direction and budget guidelines, then made a big grandstand display of line-item vetoing projects, calling them pork. Public outcry and further legislative action restored most of these projects-which had been vetoed simply because she was not aware of their importance-but with the unobservant she had gained a reputation as “anti-pork”.

She is solidly Republican: no political maverick. The State party leaders hate her because she has bit them in the back and humiliated them. Other members of the party object to her self-description as a fiscal conservative.

Around Wasilla there are people who went to high school with Sarah.

They call her “Sarah Barracuda” because of her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness. Before she became so powerful, very ugly stories circulated around town about shenanigans she pulled to be made point guard on the high school basketball team. When Sarah’s mother-in-law, a highly respected member of the community and experienced manager, ran for Mayor, Sarah refused to endorse her.

As Governor, she stepped outside of the box and put together of package of legislation known as “AGIA” that forced the oil companies to march to the beat of her drum.

Like most Alaskans, she favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She has questioned if the loss of sea ice is linked toglobal warming. She campaigned “as a private citizen” against a state initiaitive that would have either a) protected salmon streams from pollution from mines, or b) tied up in the courts all mining in the state (depending on who you listen to). She has pushed the State’s lawsuit against the Dept. of the Interior’s decision to list polar bears as threatened species.

McCain is the oldest person to ever run for President; Sarah will be a heartbeat away from being President. There has to be literally millions of Americans who are more knowledgeable and experienced than she. However, there’s a lot of people who have underestimated her and are regretting it.

CLAIM VS FACT

  • “Hockey mom”: true for a few years
  • “PTA mom”: true years ago when her first-born was in elementary school, not since
  • “NRA supporter”: absolutely true
  • social conservative: mixed. Opposes gay marriage, BUT vetoed a bill that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships (said she did this because it was unconsitutional).
  • pro-creationism: mixed. Supports it, BUT did nothing as Governor to promote it.
  • “Pro-life”: mixed. Knowingly gave birth to a Down’s syndrome baby BUT declined to call a special legislative session on some pro-life legislation
  • “Experienced”: Some high schools have more students than Wasilla has residents. Many cities have more residents than the state of Alaska. No legislative experience other than City Council. Little hands-on supervisory or managerial experience; needed help of a city administrator to run town of about 5,000.
  • political maverick: not at all
  • gutsy: absolutely!
  • open & transparent: ??? Good at keeping secrets. Not good at explaining actions.
  • has a developed philosophy of public policy: no
  • “a Greenie”: no. Turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big box stores and disconnected parking lots. Is pro-drilling off-shore and in ANWR.
  • fiscal conservative: not by my definition!
  • pro-infrastructure: No. Promoted a sports complex and park in a city without a sewage treatment plant or storm drainage system. Built streets to early 20th century standards.
  • pro-tax relief: Lowered taxes for businesses, increased tax burden on residents
  • pro-small government: No. Oversaw greatest expansion of city government in Wasilla’s history.
  • pro-labor/pro-union. No. Just because her husband works union doesn’t make her pro-labor. I have seen nothing to support any claim that she is pro-labor/pro-union.

WHY AM I WRITING THIS?

First, I have long believed in the importance of being an informed voter. I am a voter registrar. For 10 years I put on student voting programs in the schools. If you google my name (Anne Kilkenny + Alaska), you will find references to my participation in local government, education, and PTA/parent organizations.

Secondly, I’ve always operated in the belief that “Bad things happen when good people stay silent”. Few people know as much as I do because few have gone to as many City Council meetings.

Third, I am just a housewife. I don’t have a job she can bump me out of. I don’t belong to any organization that she can hurt. But, I am no fool; she is immensely popular here, and it is likely that this will cost me somehow in the future: that’s life.

Fourth, she has hated me since back in 1996, when I was one of the 100 or so people who rallied to support the City Librarian against Sarah’s attempt at censorship.

Fifth, I looked around and realized that everybody else was afraid to say anything because they were somehow vulnerable.

CAVEATS

I am not a statistician. I developed the numbers for the increase in spending & taxation 2 years ago (when Palin was running for Governor) from information supplied to me by the Finance Director of the City of Wasilla, and I can’t recall exactly what I adjusted for: did I adjust for inflation? for population increases? Right now, it is impossible for a private person to get any info out of City Hall-they are swamped. So I can’t verify my numbers.

You may have noticed that there are various numbers circulating for the population of Wasilla, ranging from my “about 5,000″, up to 9,000. The day Palin’s selection was announced a city official told me that the current population is about 7,000. The official 2000 census count was 5,460. I have used about 5,000 because Palin was Mayor from 1996 to 2002, and the city was growing rapidly in the mid-90’s.

About Sarah Palin: A Letter From Anne Kilkenny

About Sarah Palin: an e-mail from Wasilla

Ms. Palins critics say too much growth too quickly has made a mess of what not long ago was homesteaded farmland.

Wasilla Alaska rural farmland: Ms. Palin's critics say too much growth too quickly has made a mess of what not long ago was homesteaded farmland.