Tag Archives: Tracey Schmitt

Palin Clothes Spending Has Dems Salivating, Republicans Disgusted

Laurie Serino, left, talks about the high food prices with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in Barrow, Alaska on Monday, June 30, 2008.

BEFORE the Makeover: Laurie Serino, left, talks about the high food prices with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in Barrow, Alaska on Monday, June 30, 2008.

Republicans hammered on Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards’ $400 haircut (which he paid for himself) all during the primaries, yet GOP spokesperson Tracey Schmitt and others on the McCain-Palin campaign think America’s voters aren’t interested to learn about the over $150,000 spent in ONE MONTH on clothes and accessories for the Republican’s everyday “hockey mom” who is the friend of “Joe Six-Packs” around the country and relates to “Joe the Plumber” during these hard economic times? Sam Stein, writing for the Huffington Post, has a great piece on reaction from both Democrats and Republicans alike in this latest blunder by John McCain and the Republican National Committee.

Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin at an October 18th rally.

AFTER the Makeover: Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin at an October 18th rally.

Since her selection as John McCain’s running mate, the Republican National Committee spent more than $150,000 on clothing and make-up for Gov. Sarah Palin, her husband, and even her infant son, it was reported on Tuesday evening.

That entertaining scoop — which came by way of Politico — sent almost immediate reverberations through the presidential race. A statement from McCain headquarters released hours after the article bemoaned the triviality of the whole affair.

“With all of the important issues facing the country right now, it’s remarkable that we’re spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses,” said spokesperson Tracey Schmitt. “It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign.”

But even the most timid of Democrats are unlikely to heed this call for civility. For starters, the story has the potential to dampen enthusiasm among GOP activists and donors at a critical point in the presidential race. It also creates a huge PR headache for the McCain ticket as it seeks to make inroads among voters worried about the current economic crisis.

Mainly, however, Democrats (in this scenario) are not prone to forgiveness. After all, it was during this same campaign cycle that Republicans belittled the $400 haircut that former Sen. John Edwards had paid for with his own campaign money (the funds were later reimbursed). And yet, the comparison to that once-dominant news story is hardly close: if Edwards had gotten one of his legendary haircuts every singe week, it would still take him 7.2 years to spend what Palin has spent. Palin has received the equivalent of $2,500 in clothes per day from places such as Saks Fifth Avenue (where RNC expenditures totaled nearly $50,000) and Neiman Marcus (where the governor had a $75,000 spree).

Beyond the political tit-for-tat, however, the revelation of the clothing expenditures offers what some Democrats see as a chance not just to win several news cycles during the campaign’s waning days but to severely damage Palin’s image as a small-town, ‘Joe Six-Pack’ American.

“It shows that Palin ain’t like the rest of us,” Tom Matzzie, a Democratic strategist told the Huffington Post, when asked how the party would or could use the issue. “It can help deflate her cultural populism with the Republican base. The plumber’s wife doesn’t go to Nieman’s or Saks.”

Indeed, the story could not come at a more inopportune time for the McCain campaign. During a week in which the Republican ticket is trying to highlight its connection to the working class — and, by extension, promoting its newest campaign tool, Joe the Plumber — it was revealed that Palin’s fashion budget for several weeks was more than four times the median salary of an American plumber ($37,514). To put it another way: Palin received more valuable clothes in one month than the average American household spends on clothes in 80 years. A Democrat put it in even blunter terms: her clothes were the cost of health care for 15 or so people.

There are, in these cases, legal questions surrounding campaign expenditures. Though, on this front, Palin and the RNC seem to be in the clear.

“I don’t think it’s taxed,” said David Donnelly of Campaign Money Watch. “I don’t think she can keep it. It’s owned by the RNC. They had to use coordinated funds to pay for the clothes.”

And certainly the possibility exists that this issue can be effectively swept under the rug. Palin is not known for taking impromptu questions from the press. Moreover, the media, at this juncture, has other major story lines (see: upcoming election) to grapple with, thus denying the piece the relative vacuum that accompanied the Edwards story. Finally, there is little desire among conservative writers or pundits to litigate the matter, even if they were more than happy to jump on board when a Democrat was in the spotlight.

Several hours after Politico posted its findings, the topic remained nearly untouched by the major right-wing outlets. Though as Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic opined:

“Republicans, RNC donors and at least one RNC staff member have e-mailed me tonight to share their utter (and not-for-attribution) disgust at the expenditures. … The heat for this story will come from Republicans who cannot understand how their party would do something this stupid … particularly (and, it must be said, viewed retroactively) during the collapse of the financial system and the probable beginning of a recession.”

Palin Clothes Spending Has Dems Salivating, Republicans Disgusted

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Gov. Sarah Palin Makes Troopergate Assertions that Are Flatly False

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and her husband Todd Palin

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and her husband Todd Palin

ABC News senior correspondent Jake Tapper addresses Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s reaction to the Troopergate ethics investigative report released on Friday, October 11, 2008 by the Alaska Legislature.  Seems she has an entirely different take on the findings of the bipartisan legislative body who concluded that Gov. Palin’s conduct “violated AS 39.52.110(a) of the Ethics Act…”  But, according to Gov. Palin, she is “very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing … any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that.”  Just what ethics report did Governor Sarah Palin read to come up with that spin?

On Saturday, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin twice spoke to reporters about the so-called “Troopergate” scandal and the investigative report on whether she had abused her power in trying to get her sister’s ex-husband Mike Wooten fired as a state trooper, and for firing Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan one year after she, her staffers, and her husband Todd began unsuccessfully pressuring Monegan to let Wooten go.

Palin spoke on the phone with Alaska reporters about the report. The McCain-Palin campaign only allowed one question per reporter. The journalists came from the Anchorage Daily News, KTVA-Channel 11 and KTUU-Channel 2. No follow-ups were allowed.

The call can be heard HERE.

“Well, I’m very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing,” Palin said, “any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that.”

That’s just not the case.

One can make the argument, as Palin and her allies have tried to do, that this investigation — launched by a bipartisan Republican-controlled legislative body — was somehow a partisan Democratic witch hunt, but one cannot honestly make the argument that the report concluded that Palin was “cleared of any legal wrongdoing” or “any hint of unethical activity.”

The investigator did conclude that Palin’s firing of Monegan was within her power, that “although Walt Monegan’s refusal to fire Trooper Wooten was not the sole reason he was fired by Governor Sarah Palin, it was likely a contributing factor to his termination as Commissioner of Public Safety. In spite of that, Governor Palin’s firing of Commissioner Monegan was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.”

But it finds that Palin “knowingly, as that term is defined in … statutes, permitted Todd Palin to use the Governor’s office and the resources of the Governor’s office, including access to state employees, to continue to contact subordinate state employees in an effort to find some way to get Trooper Wooten fired. Her conduct violated AS 39.52.110(a) of the Ethics Act…”

The report states: “I find that Governor Sarah Palin Abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act … Compliance with the code of ethics is not optional

The evidence supports the conclusion that Governor Palin, at the least, engaged in ‘official action’ by her inaction if not her active participation or assistance to her husband in attempting to get Trooper Wooten fired [and there is evidence of her active participation.] She knowingly, as that term is defined in the above cited statutes, permitted Todd Palin to use the Governor’s office and the resources of the Governor’s office, including access to state employees, to continue to contact subordinate state employees in an effort to find some way to get Trooper Wooten fired. Her conduct violated AS 39.52.110(a) of the Ethics Act

Governor Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda.”

Read the report HERE.

Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt explains that when Palin says she’s been cleared of any legal or ethical violations, “She was referring to the conclusion of the report that found that she acted properly and lawfully with regard to reassigning Monegan, which was the original purpose of the investigation.”

But Palin is seldom that specific.

When Palin first commented on the report she parsed.

Asked “Governor, did you abuse your power?” she said, “No, and if you read the report you’ll see that there was nothing unlawful or unethical about replacing a cabinet member. You gotta read the report, sir.”

It’s true that there’s nothing “unlawful or unethical about replacing a cabinet member” in principle. And the report concluded that she had the power to fire Monegan.

But the report concluded that she had abused her power, and there was indeed something “unethical” about her behavior, insofar as it violated the state Ethics Act.

But now Palin has moved on from parsing to assertions that are not true.

“Governor,” asked a reporter with the Anchorage Daily News, “finding Number One on the report was that you abused your power by violating state law. Do you think you did anything wrong at all in this Troopergate case?”

“Not at all and I’ll tell you, it, I think that you’re always going to ruffle feathers as you do what you believe is in the best interest of the people whom you are serving,” Palin said. “In this case I knew that I had to have the right people in the right position at the right time in this cabinet to best serve Alaskans, and Walt Monegan was not the right person at the right time to meet the goals that we had set out in our administration. So no, not having done anything wrong, and again very much appreciating being cleared of any legal wrongdoing or unethical activity at all.”

Again, not true.

She was NOT cleared, certainly not of “unethical activity.”

In Altoona, Pa., at the flagship Sheetz gas station, Palin was asked to elaborate about her assertion that there was nothing “unethical or unlawful that was done.”

I’m thankful that the report has shown that, that there was no illegal or unethical activity there in my choice to replace our commissioner, so, now we look forward to working with the personnel board that the entity that is charged with looking into any activity of a governor, the lieutenant governor, or an attorney general,” Palin said.

That came closer to the truth. The report did in fact conclude that Palin had the power to fire Monegan.

“Governor, if I can follow up,” a reporter said, “the report says that you did abuse your authority in trying to get Officer Wooten fired. How do you respond to that charge?”

There was no abuse of authority at all in trying to get Officer Wooten fired,” Palin said.

If she was stating that as her opinion, fine, but if she was stating that as the conclusion of the report, that’s false.

“In fact, remember, Officer Wooten is still an Alaska state trooper, which is up to the commissioner, top brass in the department of public safety to decide who is worthy of wearing a badge and carrying a gun in the state of Alaska,” Palin said. “And if they think that Trooper Wooten is worthy of that, that’s their decision. I don’t micromanage my commissioners and ask them to hire or fire anyone, and thankfully the truth was revealed there in that report, that showed that there was no unlawful nor unethical activity on my part.”

Again, not true.

Gov. Sarah Palin Makes Troopergate Assertions that Are Flatly False

Gov. Palin Camp Continues To Suggest Special Awareness On Russia — Due to Diomede Islands?

Aerial view of the Diomede Islands; the Russian territory of Big Diomede is on the left and the US island of Little Diomede on the right.

Aerial view of the Diomede Islands; the Russian territory of Big Diomede is on the left and the US island of Little Diomede on the right.

Let’s further examine Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s foreign policy experience due to Alaska’s close proximity to Russia and her assertion that from Alaska you can ‘see’ Russia.  Her claim of ‘seeing’ Russia appears to be true; the Diomede Islands, one of which belongs to Russia, can be seen from Alaska, at least from an airplane.  The Diomede Islands are comprised of two rocky islands situated in the middle of the Bering Strait between the mainland of the US state of Alaska and Siberia, Russia.  Although at their closest the islands are approximately 2.4 miles apart, they are separated by the International Date Line, with a time difference of 23 hours, The US island of Little Diomede (total area 2.8 sq. mi.) has a settlement of 146 people as of 2000, with over 92% of the inhabitants Native Americans. 

The Diomede Islands in the Bering Sea

The Diomede Islands in the Bering Sea

The Russian island of Big Diomede (total area 11 sq. mi.) is populated by the Inupiat, the Inuit people of Alaska’s Northwest Arctic and North Slope boroughs and the Bering Straits region.  What foreign policy experience Gov. Palin has been able to glean from being able to see a small, barren and sparsely populated Russian island (inhabited by Alaska Natives) from a plane is completely unclear to most American voters. 

In an article by Scott Conroy for the CBS News, published September 21, 2008, there is little evidence of any foreign policy insights GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has learned from her state’s proximity to Siberia, Russia.

As Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin prepares to meet with a slew of world leaders in New York to coincide with the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, questions remain over her thin foreign policy resume.

Though it is not uncommon for governors running for national office to have limited exposure to international events, the Palin campaign has nonetheless made an effort to highlight the Alaska governor’s bona fides on Russia. But the idea that Palin has gleaned any special awareness of the world’s largest nation through her work as governor of Alaska stands on flimsy ground.

In her first national television interview since joining the Republican ticket less than two weeks ago, ABC’s Charlie Gibson pressed Palin on her foreign policy experience, leading her to tout repeatedly her home state’s geographical position.

“You’re in Alaska,” Palin said. “We have that very narrow maritime border between the United States, and the 49th state, Alaska, and Russia.”

Palin then reminded Gibson three separate times that Russia is Alaska’s “next door neighbor.” When Gibson pressed Palin on what insights the state’s proximity to a sparsely populated region of Siberia gives her into Russia’s actions in the Caucus region – which is thousands of miles away from Alaska – the governor stayed on message.

“They’re our next door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska,” she said.

On a clear day, it is, in fact, possible to see the unpopulated Russian island of Big Diomede from the Alaskan island of Little Diomede, which is inhabited by a small native population. Still, Palin’s hometown of Wasilla isn’t much closer to the Russian capital of Moscow (4,318 miles) than New York City is (4,663 miles).

But rather than downplaying Palin’s suggestion that she possesses special knowledge of Russia, the McCain/Palin campaign has continued to tout Alaska’s proximity to the world’s largest nation as a feather in her cap, without offering any evidence of actual experience Palin has in Russian affairs.

Asked to provide concrete examples of Palin’s foreign policy experience, Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt highlighted the governor’s dealings on energy issues and foreign trade and mentioned the 2007 trip she took to visit U.S. troops in the Middle East and Germany.

Schmitt added, “She is Governor of the only state with two international borders – a land border with Canada and a maritime border with Russia.”

CBS News made several inquiries over the course of two days to another campaign spokesperson asking for details on any practical experience Palin had with Russia. The spokesperson said that campaign staffers were gathering evidence related to trade issues, but no such information was disseminated.

A spokesperson at the governor’s office in Juneau directed all inquiries to the McCain/Palin campaign. Told that the inquiry was related to Palin’s role as the governor of Alaska – not as a vice presidential candidate – the spokesperson said that state ethics legislation required that all questions “fueled by the governor’s candidacy” must be directed to the campaign. The spokesperson provided a phone number for a campaign spokeswoman Meg Stapleton. A phone message left on Stapleton’s voicemail was not returned.

In the ABC interview Palin was asked in the event that Georgia joined the NATO alliance and was subsequently attacked by Russia, whether the United States would have to go to war with Russia.

“Perhaps so,” Palin said. “I mean, that is the agreement when you are a NATO ally, is if another country is attacked, you’re going to be expected to be called upon and help.”

Dr. Charles Kupchan, a Georgetown University professor of international relations and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, agreed that NATO would have little choice in such a case.

“The spirit of Article Five is an attack on one is an attack on all, and as a result of that, there is a presumption that if Georgia were a NATO member, or if any other NATO member would attack, that the alliance would invoke Article Five and come to its defense,” Kupchan said. “NATO could decide in a certain circumstance that it was not going to respond militarily, but that would obviously call into question NATO’s credibility in its commitment to collective defense.”

In a statement issued last month, Democratic nominee Barack Obama said, “I have consistently called for deepening relations between Georgia and transatlantic institutions, including a Membership Action Plan for NATO, and we must continue to press for that deeper relationship.”

Aside from the ABC interview, Palin herself has not continued to tout Alaska’s proximity to Russia as an example of her foreign policy knowledge. Instead, she often mentions on the campaign trail her work in striking a deal to construct a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline from Alaska, which would lead through Canada into the continental United States, as evidence that she has been at the forefront of making the U.S. energy independent.

“In general, the main way governors get involved in foreign countries is economic – they try to get countries to invest and go on trade missions, but very rarely do they get involved in issues of national security, in part because the Constitution prevents them from doing so,” Kupchan said.

“I think its fair to say [Palin’s] exposure to most foreign policy issues is minimal. Had she been a governor for a long time and gotten involved in politics on the broader national stage, that would be different.”

Asked what foreign policy credentials Palin might bring with her to Washington, Dr. Gerald McBeath, the political science department chair at the University of Alaska – Fairbanks, pointed to Alaska’s military bases and said that Palin would certainly be aware of security operations surrounding them.

“It used to be more critical in the Cold War than it is now,” McBeath added.

McBeath also noted that Alaska is within striking range of missiles that could be launched from North Korea.

A senior campaign aide who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity admitted that Palin’s knowledge of Russia may be limited to the way someone from Miami might obtain a general feel for Latin America.

“It is very much being able to look off the tip of Alaska,” the aide said. “Metaphorically, I’m talking about.”

Palin Camp Continues To Suggest Special Awareness On Russia

Satellite photo of the Bering Strait between Alaska (United States) and Serbia (Russia) … the two tiny dots in the middle are the Diomede Islands.

Satellite photo of the Bering Strait between Alaska (United States) and Serbia (Russia) … the two small islands in the middle are the Diomede Islands.