Archive for the ‘Palin’ Category
Posted in Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act, Associated Press, Elections 2008, Ethics Complaint Against Sarah Palin, Palin, Politics, Presidential Election 2008, Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin Charges Taxpayers, Sarah Palin Extravagant Spending, Sarah Palin Shopping Spree, Sarah Plain Alaska Inquiry on October 30, 2008| 1 Comment »
Palin faces new ethics complaint over kids’ travel
By RACHEL D’ORO – 18 hours ago
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A new ethics complaint has been filed against Sarah Palin, accusing the Alaska governor of abusing her power by charging the state when her children traveled with her.
The complaint alleges that the Republican vice presidential nominee used her official position as governor for personal gain, violating a statute of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. It follows a report by The Associated Press last week that Palin charged the state more than $21,000 for her three daughters’ commercial flights, including events where they weren’t invited, and later ordered their expense forms amended to specify official state business.
In some cases, Palin also has charged the state for hotel rooms for the girls.
The complaint released Wednesday says Palin charged the travel costs for events her children were not invited to and where they served in no legitimate state purpose or business.
“Governor Palin intentionally secured unwarranted benefits for family members, improperly used state property to benefit her personal and financial interests, and illegally altered documents that were the subject of a Public Records request,” the complaint states.
Earlier this month, a legislative report found Palin violated state ethics laws when she fired her public safety commissioner. The state’s Personnel Board also has hired an independent counsel for a similar investigation.
Under Alaska law, it is up to the Personnel Board to decide whether Palin violated state law. The attorney general’s office didn’t return messages seeking comment Wednesday, but has previously said the possible penalties in the first Personnel Board investigation could carry a possible fine of up to $5,000.
The latest complaint was filed by Frank Gwartney, an Anchorage Democrat who supports Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Gwartney, 60, said he is fed up with “all the corruption” among Alaska’s elected officials, including Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who was convicted this week on federal corruption charges.
“Sarah ran on this very self righteous campaign on ethics and anti-corruption,” Gwartney told the AP. “She is no different from the others.”
Palin’s attorney, Thomas Van Flein, said he was not aware of the complaint and could not comment.
Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said she can’t comment specifically on the complaint because it is confidential. But she said generally the first family is expected to participate in community activities across Alaska and represents the state on travels.
“We receive hundreds of invitations for the governor each month, and a majority of them request the first family participate,” Leighow said. “The Palin children can only participate in a fraction of the events.”
Responding to the travel issue, Palin told Fox News last week that every Alaska governor has traveled with family when it’s a first family function. “And it’s always been charged to the state,” she said. “That’s part of the job.”
The state already is reviewing nearly $17,000 in per diem payments to Palin for 312 nights she slept at her home in Wasilla, about an hour’s drive from her satellite office in Anchorage.
In the complaint, Gwartney asks that the matter be investigated by the Alaska Personnel Board — a three-member panel is appointed by the governor.
The ethics travel grievance was first reported by CBS News.
Posted in 2008 Presidential Candidates, Alaska, Anchorage, Barack Obama, Barack Obama vs John McCain, Obama 08, Palin, Politics, Sarah Palin, tagged Alaska Largest Newspaper, Anchorage Daily News on October 27, 2008| 1 Comment »
Alaska’s largest newspaper endorses Obama
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The Anchorage Daily News, Alaska’s largest newspaper, endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama Sunday after declaring Gov. Sarah Palin “too risky” to be one step away from the Oval Office.
“Like picking (Republican presidential candidate John) McCain for president, putting her one 72-year-old heartbeat from the leadership of the free world is just too risky at this time,” The Daily News said.
The newspaper said Obama “brings far more promise to the office. In a time of grave economic crisis, he displays thoughtful analysis, enlists wise counsel and operates with a cool, steady hand.”
The Daily News said since the economic crisis has emerged, McCain has “stumbled and fumbled badly” in dealing with it.
“Of the two candidates, Sen. Obama better understands the mortgage meltdown’s root causes and has the judgment and intelligence to shape a solution, as well as the leadership to rally the country behind it,” the paper said.
The Daily News said Palin has shown the country why she is a success as governor. But the paper said few would argue that Palin is truly ready to step into the job of being president despite her passion, charisma and strong work ethic.
“Gov. Palin’s nomination clearly alters the landscape for Alaskans as we survey this race for the presidency — but it does not overwhelm all other judgment. The election, after all is said and done, is not about Sarah Palin, and our sober view is that her running mate, Sen. John McCain, is the wrong choice for president at this critical time for our nation,” the paper said.
AP INVESTIGATION: Palin pipeline terms curbed bids
By JUSTIN PRITCHARD and GARANCE BURKE, Associated Press Writers Justin Pritchard And Garance Burke, Associated Press Writers
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Gov. Sarah Palin’s signature accomplishment — a contract to build a 1,715-mile pipeline to bring natural gas from Alaska to the Lower 48 — emerged from a flawed bidding process that narrowed the field to a company with ties to her administration, an Associated Press investigation shows.
Beginning at the Republican National Convention in August, the McCain-Palin ticket has touted the pipeline as an example of how it would help America achieve energy independence.
“We’re building a nearly $40 billion natural gas pipeline, which is North America’s largest and most expensive infrastructure project ever, to flow those sources of energy into hungry markets,” Palin said during the Oct. 2 vice presidential debate.
Despite Palin’s boast of a smart and fair bidding process, the AP found that her team crafted terms that favored only a few independent pipeline companies and ultimately benefited the winner, TransCanada Corp.
And contrary to the ballyhoo, there’s no guarantee the pipeline will ever be built; at a minimum, any project is years away, as TransCanada must first overcome major financial and regulatory hurdles.
In interviews and a review of records, the AP found:
_Instead of creating a process that would attract many potential builders, Palin slanted the terms away from an important group — the global energy giants that own the rights to the gas.
_Despite promises and legal guidance not to talk directly with potential bidders, Palin had meetings or phone calls with nearly every major candidate, including TransCanada.
_The leader of Palin’s pipeline team had been a partner at a lobbying firm where she worked on behalf of a TransCanada subsidiary. Also, that woman’s former business partner at the lobbying firm was TransCanada’s lead private lobbyist on the pipeline deal, interacting with legislators in the weeks before the vote to grant TransCanada the contract. Plus, a former TransCanada executive served as an outside consultant to Palin’s pipeline team.
_Under a different set of rules four years earlier, TransCanada had offered to build the pipeline without a state subsidy; under Palin, the company could receive a maximum $500 million.
“Governor Palin held firmly to her fundamental belief that Alaska could best serve Alaskans and the nation’s interests by pursuing a competitive approach to building a natural gas pipeline,” said McCain-Palin spokesman Taylor Griffin. “There was an open and transparent process that subjected the decision to extensive public scrutiny and due diligence.”
ONLY ONE VIABLE BIDDER
There were never more than a few players that could execute such a complex undertaking — at least a million tons of steel stretching across some of Earth’s most hostile and remote terrain.
TransCanada estimates it will cost $26 billion; Palin’s consultants estimate nearly $40 billion.
The pipeline would run from Alaska’s North Slope to Alberta in Canada; secondary supply lines would take the gas to various points in the United States and Canada. The pipeline would carry 4.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas daily, about 8 percent of the present U.S. market.
Building such a pipeline had been a dream for decades. The rising cost and demand for energy injected new urgency into the proposal.
So too did the depletion of Alaska’s long-reliable reserves of oil, which are trapped in the same Arctic Circle reservoirs as clean-burning natural gas. Not only does that oil provide jobs, it pays for an annual dividend check to nearly every Alaska resident. This year’s payment was $2,069, 25 percent higher than 2007 — plus a $1,200 bonus rebate to help offset higher energy costs.
Palin was elected as governor two years ago in part because of her populist appeal. Promising “New Energy for Alaska,” she vowed to take on Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips and BP, the multinational energy companies that long dominated the state’s biggest industry.
Oil interests were particularly unpopular at that moment: Federal agents had recently raided the offices of six lawmakers in a Justice Department investigation into whether an Alaska oil services company paid bribes in exchange for promoting a new taxing formula that would ultimately further the multinationals’ pipeline plans.
Palin ousted fellow Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski, who pushed a pipeline deal he negotiated in secret with the “Big Three” energy companies. That deal went nowhere.
With Alaskans eager for progress and sour on Big Oil, Palin tackled the pipeline issue with gusto, meeting with representatives from all sides and assembling her own team of experts to draw up terms.
Palin invited bidders to submit applications and offered the multimillion-dollar subsidy. Members of Palin’s team say that without the incentive, it might not have received any bids for the risky undertaking.
TIES THAT BIND
Palin’s team was led by Marty Rutherford, a widely respected energy specialist who entered the upper levels of state government nearly 20 years ago. Rutherford solidified her status when, in 2005, she joined an exodus of Department of Natural Resources staff who felt Murkowski was selling out to the oil giants.
What the Palin administration didn’t tell legislators — and neglected to mention in its announcement of Rutherford’s appointment — was that in 2003, Rutherford left public service and worked for 10 months at the Anchorage-based Jade North lobbying firm. There she did $40,200 worth of work for Foothills Pipe Lines Alaska, Inc., a subsidiary of TransCanada.
Foothills Pipe Lines Alaska Inc. paid Rutherford for expertise on topics including state legislation and funding related to gas commercialization, according to her 2003 lobbyist registration statement.
Palin has said she wasn’t bothered by that past work because it had occurred several years before. But Rutherford wouldn’t have passed her new boss’ own standards: Under ethics reforms the governor pushed through, Rutherford would have had to wait a year to jump from government service to a lobbying firm.
Rutherford also has downplayed her work for Foothills.
“I did a couple of projects for them, small projects,” she told a state Senate committee examining the TransCanada bid earlier this year. While a partner, Rutherford said, she “realized that my heart was not in the private sector, it was in the public sector, and I sold out for the same amount of money I bought in for.”
At one point, Palin’s pipeline team debated Rutherford’s role, but concluded there was no problem.
“We were looking at it in terms of is this an actual conflict or is there the appearance of impropriety of Marty’s participation,” said Pat Galvin, the commissioner of the Revenue Department and another top team member. “It was determined that there was none, and so we moved forward.”
Patricia Bielawski, Rutherford’s former partner at Jade North, spent last summer in Juneau, the state capital, serving as TransCanada’s lead private lobbyist on the pipeline deal. While the Legislature debated — and ultimately approved — the TransCanada deal, Bielawski met with lawmakers and sat in on the public proceedings, several legislators said.
Bielawski told AP earlier this month that Rutherford’s employment at her firm was irrelevant. She said Rutherford never directly lobbied the Legislature for Foothills, and that Rutherford broke no rules based on 2003 state ethics guidelines.
“There’s no statutory or regulatory prohibition that extends to things that many years ago,” Bielawski said. “So there’s no issue.”
But others say it’s a legitimate question.
“I’m not saying someone’s getting paid off for a sweetheart contract, but it’s very hard to ignore that this is your former partner and your former client standing there before you,” said Republican Sen. Lyda Green, a Palin critic who in August was among the handful of lawmakers who voted against awarding TransCanada the license. “Every time it was mentioned to the governor or to the commission, it was like, ‘How could you question such a wonderful person?'”
Tony Palmer, the TransCanada vice president who leads the company’s Alaska gas pipeline effort, rejects the suggestion that his company benefited.
“We have gained clearly no advantage from anything that Ms. Rutherford did for Foothills some five years ago on a very much unrelated topic,” he said.
Rutherford did not respond to interview requests made directly to her and through the governor’s office. But Griffin, the spokesman for the McCain-Palin campaign, said Rutherford “had no decision-making role or authority,” and contended that such matters were handled by others on the Palin pipeline team.
TransCanada also had a connection to the team hired by the Palin administration to analyze the bid. Patrick Anderson, a former TransCanada executive, served as an outside consultant and ultimately helped the state conclude that TransCanada’s technical solution for shipping gas through freezing temperatures would work.
NARROW SET OF RULES
In January 2007, Palin spoke the first of at least two times to Vice President Dick Cheney, the Bush administration’s point person on energy issues, according to calendars obtained by the AP through a public records request. Cheney’s staff pressed the Palin administration to draw in the energy companies, said current and former state officials involved in those discussions.
As the governor’s approach unfolded in the spring of 2007, there were signs it was skewed in a different direction.
Palin said she saw problems if the firms that own the gas also owned the pipeline. They could manipulate the market or charge prohibitive fees to smaller exploration firms, discouraging competition.
Several important requirements in the legislation were unpalatable to the big oil companies. In the talks under Murkowski, the firms asked that the rates for the gas production tax and royalties be fixed for 45 years; Palin refused to consider setting rates for that long.
Under the Palin process, the pipeline firms had an advantage because they simply pass along taxes paid by oil and gas producers.
Oil company officials warned lawmakers they wouldn’t participate under those terms. Still, in a near unanimous vote, the Legislature passed the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act in May 2007, generally as written by Palin’s pipeline team.
Once the state issued its request for proposals on July 2, 2007, the level of communication between the government and potential bidders was supposed to decrease drastically, so that no one would be accused of gaining unfair advantage. State lawyers advised public officials to keep their distance, and bidders were told to submit questions on a Web site where answers could be seen by all.
Several of the state’s gas line team members interviewed by AP said they had no contact with possible bidders. But Palin had conversations with executives at most of the major potential bidders during that period, according to her calendars.
While the calendars don’t detail what was discussed, the documents indicate that the pipeline was the subject of the discussions, or that the conversations occurred immediately after a briefing with Palin’s pipeline team.
When she was in Michigan for a National Governors Association summit in late July 2007, Palin and her team met executives from Williams Co., a pipeline builder that ended up not bidding.
“The purpose of the meeting was to more fully understand the details of the project, which we were still evaluating at the time,” company spokeswoman Julie Gentz said in a statement.
TransCanada’s Palmer described communication with state officials as nonexistent.
According to the governor’s official schedule, however, Palin called TransCanada President and CEO Hal Kvisle on Aug. 8, 2007. Asked about that call, Palmer said it was to clarify the bidding process.
Griffin said that in keeping with legal guidance, Palin never spoke in any of the meetings about the competitive bidding process.
By the Nov. 30 submission deadline, there were five applications. But the state disqualified four for failing to satisfy the bill’s requirements.
That left TransCanada.
The Canadian giant had been pursuing an Alaska pipeline since at least 2004, when the company negotiated a deal with Rutherford that the state ended up shelving. While the details remain confidential, six people familiar with the terms told the AP that TransCanada was willing to do the work then without the large state subsidy.
In testimony this July before the state Senate, Rutherford herself confirmed such a willingness, but described the 2004 deal as presenting a different set of trade-offs. A state lawyer warned her not to say more, lest she violate a confidentiality agreement.
Others who reviewed the deal think much of the $500 million will be wasted money.
“Most definitely TransCanada got a sweetheart deal this time,” said Republican Sen. Bert Stedman, who voted against the TransCanada license. “Where else could you get a $500 million reimbursement when you don’t even have the financing to build the pipeline?”
Associated Press writer Brett J. Blackledge contributed to this report.
Palin Drops $32,800 on Hair and Makeup Over Two Weeks
October 24, 2008 5:48 PM
ABC News’ Jennifer Parker reports: Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s traveling makeup artist was the highest paid individual in John McCain’s campaign over the first two weeks of October.
Amy Strozzi was paid $22,800 for her work as Palin’s makeup artist for the first half of October, according to documents filed Thursday by the McCain campaign with the Federal Election Commission.
Palin’s traveling hair stylist Angela Lew, the fourth highest paid individual during that time, was paid $10,000 over two weeks in October for what the campaign called “communications consulting.”
The second and third highest paid individuals in the first two weeks of October were Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s chief foreign policy adviser at $12,500, and Nicolle Wallace, McCain’s senior communications staffer at $12,000.
Strozzi and Lew have traveled full-time with the campaign since early September. They do hair and makeup for Palin for all her events and media interviews.
Palin has come under scrutiny this week when it was disclosed the Republican National Committee spent $150,000 on her wardrobe and makeup at high-end department stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Asked about the purchases in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Palin said the family shops frugally.
“That is not who we are,” Palin argued. “That whole thing is just, bad!” she said. “Oh, if people only knew how frugal we are.”
Palin argued the clothes were not worth $150,000 and were bought for the Republican National Convention. She said the pricey clothes she has worn on the campaign trail this fall will be given back to the RNC, sent to charity, or auctioned off.
Abortion clinic bombers not terrorists, Palin says
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who has accused Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama of “palling around with terrorists,” has refused to call people who bomb abortion clinics by the same name.
When asked Thursday night by NBC television presenter Brian Williams whether an abortion clinic bomber was a terrorist, Palin heaved a sigh and, at first, circumvented the question.
“There’s no question that Bill Ayers by his own admittance was one who sought to destroy our US Capitol and our Pentagon. That is a domestic terrorist,” Palin said, referring to a 1960s leftist who founded a radical violent gang dubbed the “Weathermen” — and who years later supported Obama’s first run for public office in the state of Illinois.
“Now, others who would want to engage in harming innocent Americans or facilities that it would be unacceptable to… I don’t know if you’re gonna use the word ‘terrorist’ there,” the ardently pro-life running mate of John McCain said.
Early this month, after the New York Times ran an article highlighting the ties between Obama and Ayers, Palin told a campaign rally in Colorado that Obama “sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.”
Attacks on doctors who practice abortion and on family planning clinics in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s left several people dead and scores wounded.
Eric Rudolph, the extreme right winger who planted a bomb at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, which killed one person, was sentenced three years ago to two life terms in jail for an abortion clinic bombing in Alabama in which a policeman was killed.
Posted in Margaret Carlson, McCain, McCain Extravagance, McCain Palin, Palin, Politics, Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin Extravagant Spending, Sarah Palin Shopping Spree, Sarah Palin Wardrobe on October 24, 2008| 1 Comment »
Palin’s Wardrobe Saga Exposes McCain’s Flaws: Margaret Carlson
Commentary by Margaret Carlson
Oct. 23 (Bloomberg) — At this point, criticizing Sarah Palin is like beating a dead moose. But who can resist this week’s stories of her “wardrobe of the stars” spending spree and taxpayer-funded travel?
They’re the latest in a stream of revelations that have firmly established Palin as the worst vice presidential choice, if not in history, at least in living memory. In picking her, John McCain lost two vital arguments: experience, because she doesn’t have any, and judgment, because he didn’t show any.
The latest high heel to drop might look like small potatoes were it not for all the earlier revelations.
In recently filed expenditure reports, we learn that the Republican National Committee revealed spending more than $150,000 at Neiman Marcus and Saks on a campaign makeover for the supposed Wal-Mart Mom.
That’s closer to a celebutante than to anything Joe the Plumber — or Mrs. Joe — could imagine. Who knew it cost this much to dress like a populist? At the very moment Palin was celebrating herself as “your average hockey mom” in her convention speech, she was wearing a $2,500 silk jacket by Valentino.
Imagine if she were running with the elites instead of against them? For those opening their quarterly pension-fund statements, it’s a painful reminder that Republican headquarters will always be Wall Street not Main.
Still, shouldn’t a woman catch a break here, having a bigger burden to look good 24/7? Too much attention to vanity is an equal-opportunity destroyer no matter who pays. But for his affair with a staffer, John Edwards would largely be remembered for his $400 haircut. Poor Al Gore never took the bad advice he got to wear earth tones, but he never heard the end of it.
Palin parading around like a Project Runway extra will take far less heat even though the bill she sent the committee makes Paris Hilton look like a Target shopper. With her $1.2 million in assets and six-figure salary, Palin could have footed the bill for whatever extreme makeover she felt was in order.
It’s not a victimless crime. That $150,000 comes from funds that a respected incumbent like New Hampshire Republican Senator John Sununu — struggling not to be dragged down by the McCain- Palin ticket — desperately needs.
Earlier it came out that Palin had charged the government for $17,000 in per-diem payments for 300 days she spent in her own house. Now we find she charged the state for trips that resemble vacations if not junkets.
One trip with her children on “official business” coincided with the opening day of her husband’s Iron Dog snowmobile race. Another was to a conference in New York lasting five hours for which Palin billed Alaska for airfare and five days in a hotel on Central Park for her and her daughter, Bristol. For airfare alone, Palin charged the state $21,012 for her daughters while in office.
Knowing this would look embarrassing, Palin amended her reports to make it seem as if her family’s presence was required. In fact, event organizers were surprised and had to scramble to accommodate her family.
The latest information on Palin adds to the emerging portrait of someone whose carefully cultivated image is at odds with the way she lives. Her brief tenure reveals a self-dealer who fires qualified enemies (Troopergate, her legislative director), hires unqualified friends (naming a former schoolmate who “likes cows” head of agriculture), and who went after the good old boys for cutting ethical corners she’d later cut herself.
McCain may have believed that if he didn’t have time to vet her neither would anyone else. But reality caught up.
In the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released this week, voters cited the choice of Palin as their top concern ahead of McCain’s continuing President George W. Bush‘s policies.
A stunning 55 percent now think her unqualified to be president. Even as more people find her unsuited to the job, she’s enlarging it. She says that as vice president her duties would include being “in charge of the U.S. Senate.” The RNC should have spent its money for a tutorial on the Constitution.
In choosing Palin, McCain ignored the old rule to pander to your base in the primary and break their hearts in the general election. Palin was a gift to the already committed. A hunter- gatherer from the last frontier with a large family and knockout good looks, she even turned an out-of-wedlock pregnancy that could have put off evangelicals as an example of lax childrearing or Hollywood ethics into a story of teenagers in love doing the right thing.
Even as her negatives rise, the “real American” parts of the country are still transfixed. She delivered a boffo red-meat speech with a smile at the convention, then winked and hammed her way through the vice presidential debate. What she does well is hardly enough to compensate for what she does poorly.
In the short run, she made McCain happier than he’d been in months and served to remind people of his maverick side. But in the end his impulsive choice proved more reminiscent of the impetuous young McCain who hated authority, amassed demerits at the Naval Academy and ticked off colleagues as a grandstanding hothead.
The errors we make that hurt the most are the unforced ones. Palin cost McCain his standing with many Republicans and lost him the endorsement of his friend, Colin Powell, the man he called his “favorite living hero.” On “Meet the Press” last Sunday, Powell said Palin raised doubts about McCain. “I don’t believe she’s ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president.”
For all the experience 72 years has brought McCain, it hasn’t brought him good judgment. We didn’t know that before Palin. We know it now.
(Margaret Carlson, author of “Anyone Can Grow Up: How George Bush and I Made It to the White House” and former White House correspondent for Time magazine, is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)