Tag Archives: Tony Knowles

Remember Sarah, Confucius Says “Before You Embark on a Journey of Revenge, Dig Two Graves.”


Sarah Palin, Andrew Halcro, left, and Tony Knowles were questioned by Larry Persily in a November 2006 debate in Alaska.

Alaskan Republican Andrew Halcro, the former Alaska State Representative and well regarded political blogger is none too pleased with Sarah Palin‘s poisonous arrows aimed at him (and many, many others) in her new book “Going Rogue.”  On his blog today Halcro, a no-nonsense politician who recently stated his intention to challenge Representative Don Young in the upcoming 2010 Republican primary, sent Sarah Palin a clear warning as to how the inaccuracies throughout “Going Rogue” may be dealt with by those personally attacked.

BTW, checkout the video clip of Andrew Halcro, Sarah Palin and Tony Knowles debating each other on the issue of abortion back in November 2, 2006.  Observe how very different Halcro, Knowles and Palin answer the question on what they would advise their own daughter(s) to do in the case of a pregnancy as a result of rape.  Palin is smiling, her reply is unemotional and almost cheerful, while Halcro and Knowles each give thoughtful, sensitive responses.

Sarah Palin Truth Squad


November 16, 2009: On Friday after they received an advance copy of Sarah Palin’s new book, the Associated Press called me to get a response from the two hundred plus words that Alaska’s former 1/2 term governor dedicated to me.

My favorite passage as read to me by Rachel D’Oro at the AP was when Palin referred to me as an “effete chap.”

An effete chap? Who am I, Nick Carraway in the Great Gatsby?

And by the way, when did Palin start using 17th century Latin in her dialogue?

According to the brief excerpts I’ve heard, the book seems like it’s less about her and more about blaming everybody around her for all of her short comings. From her lack of intelligence to the word getting out about her pregnant daughter, no matter what the problem or criticism, it’s always somebody elses fault and never hers.

This in and of itself is rich in irony.

After all, how many real rogues complain about being hemmed in by the actions of others?

Isn’t that the antithesis of a rogue?

However, once the book is on the street beginning Tuesday, those throughout Palin’s 413 page pity party that suffer the wild blows of her imagination will come forward with guns blazing to refute the revisionist history Palin has penned.

From the brief passages that Palin has written about me in her book, the terms unmitigated lies, narcissistic delusions and libel came to mind first.

Obviously she never learned the timely Confucius warning:

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

Beginning Tuesday…the people whom Palin has attacked in her book will start reaching for their own shovels.

Andrew Halcro
Andrew Halcro.com

Palin Pipe Dreams

Note: On July 26, Sarah Palin resigned as Alaska governor, citing concerns that ongoing ethical investigations and her decision not to seek a second term would limit her effectiveness in office. What she did (or didn’t do) to promote the development of a $40 billion gas pipeline will be a crucial part of her short history in office. This story, which was first published on March 17, delved into the long and complicated history of a pipeline that doesn’t exist.

Sarah Palin at Lake Lucille in Wasilla, Alaska, in 2008.

Sarah Palin at Lake Lucille in Wasilla, Alaska, in 2008.

For more than 30 years, a natural-gas pipeline had been the great white whale of Alaskan resource development. Tens of millions of dollars had been spent in the quest for it. The names of collapsed consortiums and failed legislative initiatives littered the tundra like the bleached horns of long-dead caribou. Then, last summer, Sarah Palin said she had harpooned the whale.

“I fought to bring about the largest private-sector infrastructure project in North American history,” Palin said at the Republican convention. “And when that deal was struck, we began a nearly $40 billion natural-gas pipeline to help lead America to energy independence.”

During the vice-presidential debate, she said it again: “We’re building a nearly $40 billion natural-gas pipeline, which is North America’s largest and most expensive infrastructure project ever.”

And to Katie Couric, she said, “We should have started 10 years ago, but better late than never.”

To many outside of Alaska, it may therefore come as a surprise to learn that not only does such a pipeline not exist, but—even as Alaska’s deep winter darkness gives way to the first light of spring—the prospect that it will be built within Sarah Palin’s lifetime grows dimmer by the day. ( View a slideshow hitting the highlights of Governor Palin’s travels.)

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Gov. Palin Charged Alaska for Children’s Travel, Later Altered Expense Reports to Reflect “Official Business”

All of us parents can certainly understand the desire to spend as much time as possible with our children and take them on wonderful trips to exciting destinations.  But few of us except the American taxpayers to foot the bill for those trips, nor would we alter governmental documents to indicate the trips were for “official business” that the children conducted.  Today Newsweek published an extremely detailed expose on the various travel expenditures charged to the taxpayers of Alaska by Gov. Palin on behalf of her children during the first 22 months of her administration.

(ANCHORAGE, Alaska) Gov. Sarah Palin charged the state for her children to travel with her, including to events where they were not invited, and later amended expense reports to specify that they were on official business.

The charges included costs for hotel and commercial flights for three daughters to join Palin to watch their father in a snowmobile race, and a trip to New York, where the governor attended a five-hour conference and stayed with 17-year-old Bristol for five days and four nights in a luxury hotel.

In all, Palin has charged the state $21,012 for her three daughters’ 64 one-way and 12 round-trip commercial flights since she took office in December 2006. In some other cases, she has charged the state for hotel rooms for the girls.

Alaska law does not specifically address expenses for a governor’s children. The law allows for payment of expenses for anyone conducting official state business.

As governor, Palin justified having the state pay for the travel of her daughters – Bristol, 17; Willow, 14; and Piper, 7 – by noting on travel forms that the girls had been invited to attend or participate in events on the governor’s schedule.

But some organizers of these events said they were surprised when the Palin children showed up uninvited, or said they agreed to a request by the governor to allow the children to attend.

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Meet Sarah Palin’s Radical Right-Wing Pals – Extremists Mark Chryson and Steve Stoll

Gov. Sarah Palin in North Olmsted, OhioWe have survived another week of Gov. Sarah Palin’s dangerous character assassinations against presidential candidate Barack Obama in which she whipped up McCain supporters to the point where some in the crowds were even shouting “terrorist” and “kill him” in reference to Sen. Obama.  Tremendous mainstream media coverage has been spent debating Barack Obama’s past “extremists” connections, while virtually little if any attention is given to Gov. Palin’s own personal and political extremists associations.

In an excellent in-depth examination by Max Blumenthal and David Neiwert, and with research support by the Nation Institute Investigative Fund, Salon.com published yesterday a lengthy article for voters’ consideration on Alaska Governor Sarah Palin ties to “radical” right wing leaders.

On the afternoon of Sept. 24 in downtown Palmer, Alaska, as the sun began to sink behind the snowcapped mountains that flank the picturesque Mat-Su Valley, 51-year-old Mark Chryson sat for an hour on a park bench, reveling in tales of his days as chairman of the Alaska Independence Party. The stocky, gray-haired computer technician waxed nostalgic about quixotic battles to eliminate taxes, support the “traditional family” and secede from the United States.

So long as Alaska remained under the boot of the federal government, said Chryson, the AIP had to stand on guard to stymie a New World Order. He invited a Salon reporter to see a few items inside his pickup truck that were intended for his personal protection. “This here is my attack dog,” he said with a chuckle, handing the reporter an exuberant 8-pound papillon from his passenger seat. “Her name is Suzy.” Then he pulled a 9-millimeter Makarov PM pistol — once the standard-issue sidearm for Soviet cops — out of his glove compartment. “I’ve got enough weaponry to raise a small army in my basement,” he said, clutching the gun in his palm. “Then again, so do most Alaskans.” But Chryson added a message of reassurance to residents of that faraway place some Alaskans call “the 48.” “We want to go our separate ways,” he said, “but we are not going to kill you.”

Though Chryson belongs to a fringe political party, one that advocates the secession of Alaska from the Union, and that organizes with other like-minded secessionist movements from Canada to the Deep South, he is not without peculiar influence in state politics, especially the rise of Sarah Palin. An obscure figure outside of Alaska, Chryson has been a political fixture in the hometown of the Republican vice-presidential nominee for over a decade. During the 1990s, when Chryson directed the AIP, he and another radical right-winger, Steve Stoll, played a quiet but pivotal role in electing Palin as mayor of Wasilla and shaping her political agenda afterward. Both Stoll and Chryson not only contributed to Palin’s campaign financially, they played major behind-the-scenes roles in the Palin camp before, during and after her victory.

Palin backed Chryson as he successfully advanced a host of anti-tax, pro-gun initiatives, including one that altered the state Constitution’s language to better facilitate the formation of anti-government militias. She joined in their vendetta against several local officials they disliked, and listened to their advice about hiring. She attempted to name Stoll, a John Birch Society activist known in the Mat-Su Valley as “Black Helicopter Steve,” to an empty Wasilla City Council seat. “Every time I showed up her door was open,” said Chryson. “And that policy continued when she became governor.”

When Chryson first met Sarah Palin, however, he didn’t really trust her politically. It was the early 1990s, when he was a member of a local libertarian pressure group called SAGE, or Standing Against Government Excess. (SAGE’s founder, Tammy McGraw, was Palin’s birth coach.) Palin was a leader in a pro-sales-tax citizens group called WOW, or Watch Over Wasilla, earning a political credential before her 1992 campaign for City Council. Though he was impressed by her interpersonal skills, Chryson greeted Palin’s election warily, thinking she was too close to the Democrats on the council and too pro-tax.

But soon, Palin and Chryson discovered they could be useful to each other. Palin would be running for mayor, while Chryson was about to take over the chairmanship of the Alaska Independence Party, which at its peak in 1990 had managed to elect a governor.

The AIP was born of the vision of “Old Joe” Vogler, a hard-bitten former gold miner who hated the government of the United States almost as much as he hated wolves and environmentalists. His resentment peaked during the early 1970s when the federal government began installing Alaska’s oil and gas pipeline. Fueled by raw rage — “The United States has made a colony of Alaska,” he told author John McPhee in 1977 — Vogler declared a maverick candidacy for the governorship in 1982. Though he lost, Old Joe became a force to be reckoned with, as well as a constant source of amusement for Alaska’s political class. During a gubernatorial debate in 1982, Vogler proposed using nuclear weapons to obliterate the glaciers blocking roadways to Juneau. “There’s gold under there!” he exclaimed.

Vogler made another failed run for the governor’s mansion in 1986. But the AIP’s fortunes shifted suddenly four years later when Vogler convinced Richard Nixon’s former interior secretary, Wally Hickel, to run for governor under his party’s banner. Hickel coasted to victory, outflanking a moderate Republican and a centrist Democrat. An archconservative Republican running under the AIP candidate, Jack Coghill, was elected lieutenant governor.

Hickel’s subsequent failure as governor to press for a vote on Alaskan independence rankled Old Joe. With sponsorship from the Islamic Republic of Iran, Vogler was scheduled to present his case for Alaskan secession before the United Nations General Assembly in the late spring of 1993. But before he could, Old Joe’s long, strange political career ended tragically that May when he was murdered by a fellow secessionist.

Hickel rejoined the Republican Party the year after Vogler’s death and didn’t run for reelection. Lt. Gov. Coghill’s campaign to succeed him as the AIP candidate for governor ended in disaster; he peeled away just enough votes from the Republican, Jim Campbell, to throw the gubernatorial election to Democrat Tony Knowles.

Despite the disaster, Coghill hung on as AIP chairman for three more years. When he was asked to resign in 1997, Mark Chryson replaced him. Chryson pursued a dual policy of cozying up to secessionist and right-wing groups in Alaska and elsewhere while also attempting to replicate the AIP’s success with Hickel in infiltrating the mainstream.

Unlike some radical right-wingers, Chryson doesn’t put forward his ideas  freighted with anger or paranoia. And in a state where defense of gun and property rights often takes on a real religious fervor, Chryson was able to present himself  as a typical Alaskan.

He rose through party ranks by reducing the AIP’s platform to a single page that “90 percent of Alaskans could agree with.” This meant scrubbing the old platform of what Chryson called “racist language” while accommodating the state’s growing Christian right movement by emphasizing the AIP’s commitment to the “traditional family.”

“The AIP is very family-oriented,” Chryson explained. “We’re for the traditional family — daddy, mommy, kids — because we all know that it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. And we don’t care if Heather has two mommies. That’s not a traditional family.”

Chryson further streamlined the AIP’s platform by softening its secessionist language. Instead of calling for immediate separation from the United States, the platform now demands a vote on independence.

Yet Chryson maintains that his party remains committed to full independence. “The Alaskan Independence Party has got links to almost every independence-minded movement in the world,” Chryson exclaimed. “And Alaska is not the only place that’s about separation. There’s at least 30 different states that are talking about some type of separation from the United States.”

This has meant rubbing shoulders and forging alliances with outright white supremacists and far-right theocrats, particularly those who dominate the proceedings at such gatherings as the North American Secessionist conventions, which AIP delegates have attended in recent years. The AIP’s affiliation with neo-Confederate organizations is motivated as much by ideological affinity as by organizational convenience. Indeed, Chryson makes no secret of his sympathy for the Lost Cause. “Should the Confederate states have been allowed to separate and go their peaceful ways?” Chryson asked rhetorically. “Yes. The War of Northern Aggression, or the Civil War, or the War Between the States — however you want to refer to it — was not about slavery, it was about states’ rights.”

Another far-right organization with whom the AIP has long been aligned is Howard Phillips’ militia-minded Constitution Party. The AIP has been listed as the Constitution Party’s state affiliate since the late 1990s, and it has endorsed the Constitution Party’s presidential candidates (Michael Peroutka and Chuck Baldwin) in the past two elections.

The Constitution Party boasts an openly theocratic platform that reads, “It is our goal to limit the federal government to its delegated, enumerated, Constitutional functions and to restore American jurisprudence to its original Biblical common-law foundations.” In its 1990s incarnation as the U.S. Taxpayers Party, it was on the front lines in promoting the “militia” movement, and a significant portion of its membership comprises former and current militia members.

At its 1992 convention, the AIP hosted both Phillips — the USTP’s presidential candidate — and militia-movement leader Col. James “Bo” Gritz, who was campaigning for president under the banner of the far-right Populist Party. According to Chryson, AIP regulars heavily supported Gritz, but the party deferred to Phillips’ presence and issued no official endorsements.

In Wasilla, the AIP became powerful by proxy — because of Chryson and Stoll’s alliance with Sarah Palin. Chryson and Stoll had found themselves in constant opposition to policies of Wasilla’s Democratic mayor, who started his three-term, nine-year tenure in 1987. By 1992, Chryson and Stoll had begun convening regular protests outside City Council. Their demonstrations invariably involved grievances against any and all forms of “socialist government,” from city planning to public education. Stoll shared Chryson’s conspiratorial views: “The rumor was that he had wrapped his guns in plastic and buried them in his yard so he could get them after the New World Order took over,” Stein told a reporter.

Chryson did not trust Palin when she joined the City Council in 1992. He claimed that she was handpicked by Democratic City Council leaders and by Wasilla’s Democratic mayor, John Stein, to rubber-stamp their tax hike proposals. “When I first met her,” he said, “I thought she was extremely left. But I’ve watched her slowly as she’s become more pronounced in her conservative ideology.”

Palin was well aware of Chryson’s views. “She knew my beliefs,” Chryson said. “The entire state knew my beliefs. I wasn’t afraid of being on the news, on camera speaking my views.”

But Chryson believes she trusted his judgment because he accurately predicted what life on the City Council would be like. “We were telling her, ‘This is probably what’s going to happen,'” he said. “‘The city is going to give this many people raises, they’re going to pave everybody’s roads, and they’re going to pave the City Council members’ roads.’ We couldn’t have scripted it better because everything we predicted came true.”

After intense evangelizing by Chryson and his allies, they claimed Palin as a convert. “When she started taking her job seriously,” Chryson said, “the people who put her in as the rubber stamp found out the hard way that she was not going to go their way.” In 1994, Sarah Palin attended the AIP’s statewide convention. In 1995, her husband, Todd, changed his voter registration to AIP. Except for an interruption of a few months, he would remain registered was an AIP member until 2002, when he changed his registration to undeclared.

In  1996, Palin decided to run against John Stein as the Republican candidate for mayor of Wasilla. While Palin pushed back against Stein’s policies, particularly those related to funding public works, Chryson said he and Steve Stoll prepared the groundwork for her mayoral campaign.

Chryson and Stoll viewed Palin’s ascendancy as a vehicle for their own political ambitions. “She got support from these guys,” Stein remarked. “I think smart politicians never utter those kind of radical things, but they let other people do it for them. I never recall Sarah saying she supported the militia or taking a public stand like that. But these guys were definitely behind Sarah, thinking she was the more conservative choice.”

They worked behind the scenes,” said Stein. “I think they had a lot of influence in terms of helping with the back-scatter negative campaigning.”

Indeed, Chryson boasted that he and his allies urged Palin to focus her campaign on slashing character-based attacks. For instance, Chryson advised Palin to paint Stein as a sexist who had told her “to just sit there and look pretty” while she served on Wasilla’s City Council. Though Palin never made this accusation, her 1996 campaign for mayor was the most negative Wasilla residents had ever witnessed.

While Palin played up her total opposition to the sales tax and gun control — the two hobgoblins of the AIP — mailers spread throughout the town portraying her as “the Christian candidate,” a subtle suggestion that Stein, who is Lutheran, might be Jewish. “I watched that campaign unfold, bringing a level of slime our community hadn’t seen until then,” recalled Phil Munger, a local music teacher who counts himself as a close friend of Stein.

This same group [Stoll and Chryson] also [publicly] challenged me on whether my wife and I were married because she had kept her maiden name,” Stein bitterly recalled. “So we literally had to produce a marriage certificate. And as I recall, they said, Well, you could have forged that.'”

When Palin won the election, the men who had once shouted anti-government slogans outside City Hall now had a foothold inside the mayor’s office. Palin attempted to pay back her newfound pals during her first City Council meeting as mayor. In that meeting, on Oct. 14, 1996, she appointed Stoll to one of the City Council’s two newly vacant seats. But Palin was blocked by the single vote of then-Councilman Nick Carney, who had endured countless rancorous confrontations with Stoll and considered him a “violent” influence on local politics. Though Palin considered consulting attorneys about finding another means of placing Stoll on the council, she was ultimately forced to back down and accept a compromise candidate.

Emboldened by his nomination by Mayor Palin, Stoll later demanded she fire Wasilla’s museum director, John Cooper, a personal enemy he longed to sabotage. Palin obliged, eliminating Cooper’s position in short order. “Gotcha, Cooper!” Stoll told the deposed museum director after his termination, as Cooper told a reporter for the New York Times. And it only cost me a campaign contribution.” Stoll, who donated $1,000 to Palin’s mayoral campaign, did not respond to numerous requests for an interview. Palin has blamed budget concerns for Cooper’s departure.

The following year, when Carney proposed a local gun-control measure, Palin organized with Chryson to smother the nascent plan in its cradle. Carney’s proposed ordinance would have prohibited residents from carrying guns into schools, bars, hospitals, government offices and playgrounds. Infuriated by the proposal that Carney viewed as a common-sense public-safety measure, Chryson and seven allies stormed a July 1997 council meeting.

With the bill still in its formative stages, Carney was not even ready to present it to the council, let alone conduct public hearings on it. He and other council members objected to the ad-hoc hearing as “a waste of time.” But Palin — in plain violation of council rules and norms — insisted that Chryson testify, stating, according to the minutes, that “she invites the public to speak on any issue at any time.”

When Carney tried later in the meeting to have the ordinance discussed officially at the following regular council meeting, he couldn’t even get a second. His proposal died that night, thanks to Palin and her extremist allies.

“A lot of it was the ultra-conservative far right that is against everything in government, including taxes,” recalled Carney. “A lot of it was a personal attack on me as being anti-gun, and a personal attack on anybody who deigned to threaten their authority to carry a loaded firearm wherever they pleased. That was the tenor of it. And it was being choreographed by Steve Stoll and the mayor.”

Asked if he thought it was Palin who had instigated the turnout, he replied: “I know it was.”

By Chryson’s account, he and Palin also worked hand-in-glove to slash property taxes and block a state proposal that would have taken money for public programs from the Permanent Fund Dividend, or the oil and gas fund that doles out annual payments to citizens of Alaska. Palin endorsed Chryson’s unsuccessful initiative to move the state Legislature from Juneau to Wasilla. She also lent her support to Chryson’s crusade to alter the Alaska Constitution’s language on gun rights so cities and counties could not impose their own restrictions. “It took over 10 years to get that language written in,” Chryson said. “But Sarah [Palin] was there supporting it.”

With Sarah as a mayor,” said Chryson, “there were a number of times when I just showed up at City Hall and said, ‘Hey, Sarah, we need help.’ I think there was only one time when I wasn’t able to talk to her and that was because she was in a meeting.

Chryson says the door remains open now that Palin is governor. (Palin’s office did not respond to Salon’s request for an interview.) While Palin has been more circumspect in her dealings with groups like the AIP as she has risen through the political ranks, she has stayed in touch.

When Palin ran for governor in 2006, marketing herself as a fresh-faced reformer determined to crush the GOP’s ossified power structure, she made certain to appear at the AIP’s state convention. To burnish her maverick image, she also tapped one-time AIP member and born-again Republican Walter Hickel as her campaign co-chair. Hickel barnstormed the state for Palin, hailing her support for an “all-Alaska” liquefied gas pipeline, a project first promoted in 2002 by an AIP gubernatorial candidate named Nels Anderson. When Palin delivered her victory speech on election night, Hickel stood beaming by her side. “I made her governor,” he boasted afterward. Two years later, Hickel has endorsed Palin’s bid for vice president.

Just months before Palin burst onto the national stage as McCain’s vice-presidential nominee, she delivered a videotaped address to the AIP’s annual convention. Her message was scrupulously free of secessionist rhetoric, but complementary nonetheless. “I share your party’s vision of upholding the Constitution of our great state,” Palin told the assembly of AIP delegates. “My administration remains focused on reining in government growth so individual liberty can expand. I know you agree with that … Keep up the good work and God bless you.”

When Palin became the Republican vice-presidential nominee, her attendance of the 1994 and 2006 AIP conventions and her husband’s membership in the party (as well as Palin’s videotaped welcome to the AIP’s 2008 convention) generated a minor controversy. Chryson claimed, however, that Sarah and Todd Palin never even played a minor role in his party’s internal affairs. “Sarah’s never been a member of the Alaskan Independence Party,” Chryson insisted. “Todd has, but most of rural Alaska has too. I never saw him at a meeting. They were at one meeting I was at. Sarah said hello, but I didn’t pay attention because I was taking care of business.”

But whether the Palins participated directly in shaping the AIP’s program is less relevant than the extent to which they will implement that program. Chryson and his allies have demonstrated just as much interest in grooming major party candidates as they have in putting forward their own people. At a national convention of secessionist groups in 2007, AIP vice chairman Dexter Clark announced that his party would seek to “infiltrate” the Democratic and Republican parties with candidates sympathetic to its hard-right, secessionist agenda. “You should use that tactic. You should infiltrate,” Clark told his audience of neo-Confederates, theocrats and libertarians. “Whichever party you think in that area you can get something done, get into that party. Even though that party has its problems, right now that is the only avenue.”

Clark pointed to Palin’s political career as the model of a successful infiltration. “There’s a lot of talk of her moving up,” Clark said of Palin. “She was a member [of the AIP] when she was mayor of a small town, that was a nonpartisan job. But to get along and to go along she switched to the Republican Party … She is pretty well sympathetic because of her membership.”

Clark’s assertion that Palin was once a card-carrying AIP member was swiftly discredited by the McCain campaign, which produced records showing she had been a registered Republican since 1988. But then why would Clark make such a statement? Why did he seem confident that Palin was a true-blue AIP activist burrowing within the Republican Party? The most salient answer is that Palin was once so thoroughly embedded with AIP figures like Chryson and Stoll and seemed so enthusiastic about their agenda, Clark may have simply assumed she belonged to his party.

Now, Palin is a household name and her every move is scrutinized by the Washington press corps. She can no longer afford to kibitz with secessionists, however instrumental they may have been to her meteoric ascendancy. This does not trouble her old AIP allies. Indeed, Chryson is hopeful that Palin’s inauguration will also represent the start of a new infiltration.

“I’ve had my issues but she’s still staying true to her core values,” Chryson concluded. “Sarah’s friends don’t all agree with her, but do they respect her? Do they respect her ideology and her values? Definitely.”

Meet Sarah Palin’s Radical Right-Wing Pals

Palin’s Popularity Tumbles Among Alaskans

Anti-Palin protest in Anchorage, Alaska

Anti-Palin protest in Anchorage, Alaska

The Miami Herald ran a report on September 30, 2008 by Chris Adams on the recent dramatic drop in Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s approval ratings with her home state constituents.  As details emerge about the Troopergate ethics investigation and the many controversies and scandals surrounding Gov. Palin come to light as a result of her choice by Republican Senator John McCain as his vice presidential running mate, the 80%+ approval rating Palin once enjoyed continues to slide downhill among many Alaskan Democrats and Independent voters.

Ask a governor if she’d be happy with a 68 percent approval rating and she’d probably laugh at the question. It usually doesn’t get much better than that.

For Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, though, that represents a hefty drop.

Since John McCain tapped the first-term governor to be his vice-presidential running mate, Palin’s sky-high home-state approval ratings have come down to Earth.

Above 80 percent approval for parts of her term – she was at 82 percent in a key local poll twice this year – Palin’s popularity has swooned as new information about the local abuse-of-power investigation known as Troopergate has trickled out, and as national and local media pick over her track record as a governor and small-town mayor.

Palin still has overwhelming support among Alaska Republicans. But many Democrats and independents, who gave her positive marks just a month ago, have changed their views.

“My problem is not with Sarah Palin the governor,” said Ron Zandman-Zeman, 60, a recently retired schoolteacher from Anchorage. “She was doing the job she was elected to do. I don’t think she can do the job she wants to be elected to do. And that’s why I’m here.”

“Here” was a rally in a downtown Anchorage park this past weekend, where several hundred demonstrators gathered under a brilliant blue sky to protest Palin and her attorney general, mostly for their handling of the Troopergate controversy.

Until this summer, there were plenty of Alaskans who’d supported or been neutral toward their governor. Palin built a reservoir of goodwill during a handful of key issues, including prodding the state’s oil industry to cough up more of its profits, which fund the vast majority of state operations.

After McCain shocked the political world by picking Palin, the rest of the country experienced a flash of infatuation with the charming, gutsy governor. But some Alaskans turned against what they saw as her newly aggressive, mean-spirited demeanor.

At the studio of KENI in Anchorage, Andrew Halcro has become a focal point for anti-Palin advocates. Halcro is a former state legislator who was beaten by Palin in the 2006 gubernatorial election. (Running as an independent, Halcro finished third behind Palin and former Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat).

But he’s also a Republican. He has been disillusioned with Palin for, among other things, her handling of the Troopergate issue. For the past month, he’s been hosting a daily talk radio show.

At first, callers were defensive on Palin’s and Alaska’s behalf – particularly as the national media and left-wing blogs published information about the governor’s family and questioned her record in office.

“It was uncomfortable to even talk about a story in the morning paper,” he said. “People would say, ‘You need to move on.'”

Palin had done a good job of governing from the center, he said. But her recent mocking of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, for example, is a surprise to many Alaskans.

“I see a real change in the callers,” he said. “People are seeing Gov. Palin in a different light.”

Zandman-Zeman, for example, said he had respected McCain in the past, until the Republican presidential nominee changed his approach to appease more conservative elements of his party. Zandman-Zeman also had come around on Palin during her time as governor (he supported somebody else in the 2006 election), and he might’ve supported her for re-election in Alaska.

But he still considers her out of her league on the national scene. On Saturday, he held a sign near a street corner as cars whizzed by, drivers honking in support of the demonstrators.

His sign read: “Palin – A Good Gov in Way Over Her Head.”

While many demonstrators objected to Palin on partisan or ideological grounds, two issues that clearly rankled Alaskans had nothing to do with party loyalty: openness and independence.

Ivan Moore, a local pollster who works with both Democrats and Republicans, recently found that Palin’s support had slipped to 68 percent. The poll was conducted from Sept. 20 to 22 among 500 likely Alaska voters and has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

Inside those numbers was a dramatic drop in support from Democrats and independents, although support from Republicans remained strong at 93 percent. Among Democrats, her approval rating dropped from 60 percent to 36 percent, a 24-point drop. Among independents, it fell from 82 percent to 64 percent, an 18-point drop.

Moore said those numbers were likely driven by the harsher tone Palin has adopted on the national campaign trail, as well as the fallout from Troopergate.

Palin’s lost many supporters because she’s worked to thwart a bipartisan inquiry into Troopergate after saying she’d cooperate. (Troopergate involves the firing of the state’s public safety commissioner, who’d refused to fire a state trooper who’d been involved in a messy divorce with Palin’s sister).

In addition, fiercely independent Alaskans resent moves by the McCain campaign to control what they see as purely state matters.

Sondra Tompkins, a reliably Republican voter, found herself speaking out at the rally – upset, she said, because of Palin’s handling of the trooper issue and the example it sets for children in the state.

“They’re listening, they’re watching, and they’re asking questions,” Tompkins called out to the crowd. “Do we tell them it’s OK not to tell the truth? Do we tell them it’s OK to bend the truth? Do we tell them it’s OK to distort the truth if you have a gaggle of lawyers to defend you?

“It’s not OK, and I think Alaskans have had enough.”

Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., said an approval rating in the 60s for a governor is good. His recent polling in six western states found two governors with approval ratings in the low-80s, two in the 60s and one in the 50s.

The sky-high ratings Palin once had are somewhat unusual, he said – but not unheard of.

“Governors in smaller states tend to have much higher performance ratings because their constituencies are smaller,” he said. “They have personal contact with the voters and so there is more familiarity between them and the constituents. But 68 percent is pretty good.”

Palin’s Popularity Tumbles Among Alaskans

Palin’s Stand on Mining Initiative Leaves Many Feeling Burned

Alaskan school children protesting the creation of the proposed Pebble Mine near Bristol Bay Alaska

Alaskan school children protesting the creation of the proposed Pebble Mine near Bristol Bay Alaska

Once again, it would seem that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin believes the laws of her state do not apply to her conduct.  Government officials are prohibited from advocating on state ballot measures with state resources.  Previous Alaska governors have refrained from interjecting their ‘personal’ opinions into state initiatives, allowing the voters to decide.  

In a highly controversial ballot initiative pitting the fishing industry against the large-scale copper and gold mining corporations, Alaska’s Ballot Measure 4 (Prop. 4), went down to defeat shortly after Gov. Palin publically supported the mining industry in opposition to the measure.  The ballot measure would have imposed two water quality standards on any new large-scale mines in Alaska. Had it passed, it would have restricted large, new mines from releasing toxic pollutants into water that would adversely affect the health of humans and salmon. 

After months of intense fighting between mining companies on one side and environmentalists lining up with the fishing industry on the other side, over $10 million was spent in an effort to inform voters.  On August 20, 2008, Gov. Palin came out in support of the pro-mining coalition, who immediately ran full-page ads stating her opposition to the measure.  The election, held on August 26, saw Prop. 4 go down to defeat with 57% of the voters rejecting the safety concerns of commercial fishermen and environmental groups.

Potential Mining Footprint on Bristol Bay’s Wild Salmon and Trout Waters

Potential Mining Footprint on Bristol Bay’s Wild Salmon and Trout Waters

Writing for the Washington Post in an article published September 28, 2008, staff writer Alec MacGillis explores how the governor’s influence swayed the initiative in favor of big mining interests, at the possible determent to the livelihood of thousands of Alaskan within the fishing industry.

For months, the confrontation mounted, a face-off that arguably held in the balance the fates of two of Alaska’s biggest industries. On one side were companies hoping to open Pebble Mine at a huge gold and copper reserve adjacent to one of the world’s largest salmon runs, Bristol Bay. On the other side were fishermen and environmentalists pushing a referendum that would make it harder for the mine to open.

The two sides spent more than $10 million — unprecedented for such efforts in Alaska — and throughout it all, the state’s highly popular first-term governor, Sarah Palin, held back. Alaska law forbids state officials from using state resources to advocate on ballot initiatives.

Then, six days before the Aug. 26 vote, with the race looking close, Palin broke her silence. Asked about the initiative at a news conference, she invoked “personal privilege” to give an opinion. “Let me take my governor’s hat off for just a minute here and tell you, personally, Prop. 4 — I vote no on that,” she said. “I have all the confidence in the world that [the Department of Environmental Conservation] and our [Department of Natural Resources] have great, very stringent regulations and policies already in place. We’re going to make sure that mines operate only safely, soundly.”

Palin’s comments rocked the contest. Within a day, the pro-mining coalition fighting the referendum had placed full-page ads with a picture of the governor and the word “NO.” The initiative went down to defeat, with 57 percent of voters rejecting it.

Three days later, Palin was named Republican Sen. John McCain‘s running mate, throwing Alaska into a media frenzy. But the fallout has lingered from an episode that may stand as one of the most consequential in Palin’s 21-month tenure. The state ethics panel is examining whether her comments violated the law against state advocacy on ballot measures; it had already ruled that a state Web site was improperly slanted toward mining interests.

John Shively stands in front of a map of the proposed Pebble mine project. The Pebble Partnership, a group formed last summer to increase support for development of the Pebble Mine in Southwest Alaska, selected Shively to serve as its chief executive officer.

John Shively stands in front of a map of the proposed Pebble mine project. The Pebble Partnership, a group formed last summer to increase support for development of the Pebble Mine in Southwest Alaska, selected Shively to serve as its chief executive officer.

Opponents of the referendum say Palin’s intervention showed her willingness to speak up for what she saw as the state’s best interests, even if it upset many Alaskans. “It was very positive,” said John Shively, chief executive of Pebble Partnership, a consortium of Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty and multinational mining giant Anglo American that is planning the mine. “She’s very popular as governor, and so it certainly never hurts to have a popular governor on your side.”

The initiative’s supporters, stunned by Palin’s late intervention, say it demonstrated her bias in favor of development, even when it threatens an industry that supports thousands of Alaskans — including Palin’s husband, Todd, a part-time commercial fisherman who grew up near Bristol Bay.

For Palin to intervene as she did, with a brief, seemingly off-the-cuff statement just days before the election, also showed a lack of serious engagement on complex and important issues, initiative supporters say. Palin, they say, was simply going on the word of officials in her administration that the existing regulations sufficed, without taking into account their possible biases: Her natural resources commissioner hails from the mining industry, and mining companies directly subsidize some regulators’ salaries.

“She has this great faith that nothing will go wrong, which gave her a false sense of security, so she went off a little half-cocked” and spoke out, said Tim Bristol, Alaska program director for Trout Unlimited.

McCain campaign spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton, Palin’s former press secretary, defended the governor’s intervention. “From the moment Governor Palin took office, she made it clear she supports responsible resource development,” Stapleton said. “On the issue of the possible development of Pebble Mine — this is not about whether you are for or against development, because they haven’t even submitted a permit; this is about process and ensuring that any company that wants to come to Alaska and develop our resources is at the very least provided the opportunity to avail themselves of the state’s process.”

Most irksome to initiative proponents was Palin’s effort to cast her intervention as “personal.”

“We were just like, ‘When does she have her hat on and when does she have it off?’ ” Bristol said. Former governor Tony Knowles, a Democrat who lost to Palin in 2006, went further and said she may have violated the law against using state resources to advocate on initiatives. He said he never took such a decisive stand on a ballot initiative.

“She says, ‘I’m going to take off my governor’s hat,’ but the only reason the press was there was that they were called to a press conference by the governor,” he said. “Being governor is not a costume — you either are the governor or not.”

Shively said it is “absolute balderdash” to question Palin’s right to oppose the measure. Yet some other opponents of the referendum said they were surprised she spoke out. “I was delighted, absolutely delighted, but I don’t know if it was the right thing for her to do,” said Cynthia Toohey, who co-owns an Alaska mine and chaired the opposition coalition. “I’ve lived in the state 30 years, and I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a governor come out for or against an initiative like that.”

The same week that Palin voiced her views, Alaska’s Public Offices Commission ordered revisions to an informational Web site set up by the state. The site stated that the initiative’s proposed new regulations were “general and less precise” than existing law and that they might lead to limiting operations at existing mines. Initiative supporters said the Web site echoed the mining industry’s talking points.

El Chino, located near Silver City, New Mexico, is an example of open-pit copper mining

El Chino, located near Silver City, New Mexico, is an example of open-pit copper mining

Mining companies are proceeding with planning for Pebble Mine and hope to apply for permits in a year. Discovered in 1988, the site is the largest gold and copper deposit in the country. Supporters, who include many Native Alaskan leaders, say the mine would provide jobs for struggling rural Alaska and note that mining yields $200 million a year in state tax revenue.

But the mine would sit on Bristol Bay, a fishing paradise where 31 million sockeye salmon worth $108 million were caught last year. Opponents consider it too risky to construct an open-pit mine, as well as the world’s largest dam to hold mining waste, so close to the valuable fishing grounds. The defeated initiative would have addressed their concern, barring any new large metals mine from releasing chemicals that would damage salmon, a standard not included in current law.

Fishing employs more people than any other Alaska industry — 12,000 mostly seasonal jobs in Bristol Bay alone, compared with 5,500 mining jobs statewide. But the mining industry has more lobbying clout. In the referendum fight, the pro-mining coalition easily outspent its opposition.

Mining interests have courted Palin since her inauguration. Northern Dynasty contributed to her inaugural fund, and other mining companies have offered gifts and paid travel expenses for Palin’s husband to go on fact-finding trips.

Palin suggested in her campaign and early in her tenure that she would withhold judgment on Pebble Mine. In a campaign questionnaire, she said that “as part of a Bristol Bay fishing family myself, I would not support any resource development that would endanger the most sensitive and productive fishery in the world.” In a September 2007 interview with the Anchorage Daily News, she repeated that “Pebble Mine will not be permitted on our watch” if it hurts the salmon grounds, but she added that “we can’t go in there with a preconceived notion that Pebble Mine should or shouldn’t be permitted.”

Bear taking a swim in Bristol Bay, Alaska

Bear taking a swim in Bristol Bay, Alaska

Environmentalists saw a bad omen when Palin’s administration urged legislators not to toughen a regulation that the previous governor, Frank Murkowski (R), had loosened to allow some levels of toxicity in streams when salmon are not present. Political strategist Danny Consenstein, a leader of the pro-initiative team, said he suspected that Palin eventually came out against the initiative to maintain her Republican standing in a state where the party has long supported the use of natural resources.

“This is kind of a litmus test,” he said. “If you’re against the mining industry, you’re anti-Alaskan. She’s a Republican governor, and she’s got to show she’s pro-development.”

A week before the vote, Palin spoke with initiative opponent Mead Treadwell, the chairman of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. He sensed that the governor was seeing things his way. “Palin said, ‘I can’t take a position, but if anyone asks me what I think, I’d say that I don’t like it,’ ” Treadwell recalled. “And about an hour later, someone asked her.”

She stated her opposition without warning Rick Halford, a conservative Republican and former state senator. A main initiative supporter, he had worked hard for Palin’s election. The two had talked during the summer about Pebble, and “she was cautious and trying to figure it out at that point,” he said.

Art Hackney, a political consultant and director of Alaskans for Clean Water, speculated that Palin may have been irked by complaints about the biased language on the state Web site. “It was her way of waving her wand, as she is wont to do,” he said, “. . . and poof, undercut this effort with one fell swoop.”

Palin’s Stand on Mining Initiative Leaves Many Feeling Burned

Aerial view of beautiful Bristol Bay, Alaska

Aerial view of beautiful Bristol Bay, Alaska

Gov. Sarah Palin’s Mysterious Trade Missions to Russia

In a September 26, 2008 article published in Salon.com, questions still remain from Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s assertion that she and Alaska “have trade missions back and forth” with Russia, as she has stated last week in an interview with Katie Couric (see “trade missions” comment by Gov. Palin 50 seconds into the clip).

As John McCain reminds us, “Russia is right next to Alaska; Sarah Palin understands that.” But when pressed by Katie Couric about what, exactly, that understanding lent her in the way of foreign policy savvy, the Republicans’ vice-presidential nominee couldn’t come up with a lot of specifics:

COURIC: Explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials.

PALIN: Well, it certainly does because our — our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They’re in the state that I am the executive of. And there in Russia —

COURIC: Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth. We — we do — it’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where — where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is — from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to — to our state.

As you might notice, Palin only cites one discernible foreign interaction under her purview: Trade missions.

I spent some time on the Governor’s Web site seeking more details about her trade negotiations with Russia. There’s a press release about Gov. Palin’s meeting with a trade mission from the Yukon, but nothing about Russia anywhere in the archives. Tony Knowles, a Democrat who was governor from 1994-2002, led a trade mission — back in 1997, while Palin was running Wasilla — to the remote island of Sakhalin, off the coast of Siberia. That seems to be about it for Russia-Alaska trade missions lately.

When asked for examples of trade missions with Russia that have taken place under Palin’s watch, gubernatorial spokeswoman Kate Morgan refused to answer the question. Morgan said she could not legally discuss any trade missions with me because she’s a state employee and I had first heard this claim through the Couric interview, which was part of Palin’s campaign for the vice-presidency. When I pointed out that any trade missions that occurred would have been official state business, Morgan again noted that I had learned about them in the context of the campaign. “The law is very stringent,” she said, and recommended that I contact the McCain-Palin campaign. Two spokespeople did not respond to requests for comment.

An article published two weeks ago in the Seattle Times notes that a politician from Russia’s Far East did in fact meet with Palin in Anchorage, and urged her to come to Russia. One of Palin’s trade specialists is also quoted saying that no trade missions with Russia are currently on the agenda: “I am not aware of any plans but that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t [arrange any].”

The article noted that Anchorage is host to an organization called the Northern Forum, a council of regional governments from all the northernmost countries of the world. But the Palin administration cut the Forum’s budget from $75,000 to $15,000, and stopped the practice of sending representatives to its meetings.

Palin’s Mysterious Trade Missions

Map of Alaska and Russia

Map of Alaska and Russia