As we get ready for the big Sarah Palin speech tonight, it's worth taking a moment to step back from the charges of negligent vetting and media sexism, to focus on what really should be the heart of the issue.
The McCain campaign has presented Palin as a squeaky-clean reformer
, who took on corruption in Alaska, and will help to bring a new brand of politics to Washington. But a flurry of reports over the last few days significantly undercut that image.
To be sure, Palin's claims to be a reformer aren't toally without merit. Before becoming governor, she went after the state GOP chair
, Randy Ruedrich, for doing work for the party on public time and working closely with a company he was supposed to be regulating. She also filed a formal complaint
against Attorney General Gregg Renkes for having investments in an energy company that stood to benefit from a state trade deal. Both Ruedrich and Renkes ultimately resigned their posts, and Ruedrich paid a $12,000 fine.
But let's look at the other side of the ledger. Both as mayor of Wasilla and as governor, Palin has aggressively sought federal earmarks, and has a friendlier relationship with indicted GOP senator Ted Stevens than one would expect for a good-government crusader. She has fired employees who she sees as disloyal. And, in a move reminiscent of the Bush-Cheney White House, she has stonewalled legitimate efforts by the legislature to uncover the truth in the Trooper-Gate affair.
Here's a sampling of reports that complicate Palin's reformist credentials:
- Last year, Palin requested more earmarks per person than any other state -- including some that were criticized by McCain himself.
- Even as mayor of Wasilla, Palin's pursuit of earmarks was aggressive. She oversaw the hiring of a Washington lobbyist -- who, as we reported yesterday, had ties to Jack Abramoff -- to go after federal pork.
- And though Palin touted her opposition to the "Bridge to Nowhere" just last week in her debut speech, she initially supported the project during her run for governor. It was only after the bridge became notorious as an example of pork barrel spending that she changed her position.
- In her run for governor, Palin was endorsed by now-indicted Sen. Ted Stevens. Video of the endorsement has been removed from her government website, but the two appeared together just two months ago at a press conference on energy. The friendly relationship between the embattled senator, who is accused of lying about gifts he recieved from an oil contractor, and the supposedly maverick governor is at odds with Palin's claim to dismantling the "old boys club" of Alaska government.
- As Wasilla mayor, Palin reportedly fired the police chief and attempted to fire the librarian, because she did not feel that she had their "full support in [her] efforts to govern the city of Wasilla." Former city officials allege that the attempts to remove the librarian were a result of her her refusal to censor books at Palin's request.
- Palin has been at the center of the Trooper-Gate scandal that alleges misuse of her gubernatorial power. The affair erupted in July when Palin fired the Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan. Monegan later claimed his firing was a result of his refusal to fire Palin's former brother-in-law and trooper Mike Wooten. Palin denied that she, her husband or her staff ever pressured Monegan, a statement she later had to retract when recorded phone calls revealed one of her aides, Frank Bailey, had called a troopers office pushing for Wooten's removal.
- Tonight, the Washington Post published emails from Palin to Monegan in which she appeared to complain that Wooten was still employed, apparently undercutting her claim that she discussed Wooten with Monegan only in the context of the security of her family.
- As a result of the Trooper-Gate allegations, an independent investigator has been appointed by the state legislature. In recent days, Palin has appeared to stonewall the probe. Her lawyer argued in a complaint filed last night that she wold not be made available for her deposition unless the probe were handed over to the state personnel board, whose members are appointed by the governor. Bailey, who had been suspended by Palin with pay for his actions, today backed out of his deposition.
- In a separate civil suit related to Wooten, Palin has claimed executive privilege on over a thousand emails between her and her staff, including Bailey.