It seems the more “family values” or “spiritual” or “pro life” or “transparent” our elected officials claim to be, the more likely they are to run off with a hooker, have an affair, support killing of innocents overseas, or hold steadfastly back with information that might be damaging to them
Here in Alaska, many of us were enthusiastic to get a new, good-looking female governor who came in on a platform of “transparency”. However, that transparency quickly faded to withholding of information or outright untruths with regard to her dealings with state employees, her family, or her record as governor. Her gain in popularity on the national stage seems to have coincided with a drop in her popularity here – although certainly not in the same magnitude. Her national gain has been much greater than her drop here. Which is to say she isn’t that bad, yet.
Her recent touting of the Exxon partnership with Trans Alaska to build the pipeline drew my attention. After fighting with Exxon over their leases, suddenly she is holding their hand. I’m waiting to see, however, if this isn’t a prelude to a national office re-run and the required to have on board people or companies with deep pockets. And even if this has something to do with the new love fest between her and Exxon, it could still be a big win for a new gas line.
Mike Erickson, who writes about the state budget here in Juneau, wrote an editorial today that I think reflects the feelings of many Alaskans of the rise and now waning support for our governor, and is worth a read for those outside the state who may think all the bad press about our governor is contrived by “liberals” or “socialists” or “democrats”:
Hypocrisy tarnishes Palin’s charisma
By Gregg Erickson | Alaska Budget Report
Could my governor, the charismatic Sarah Palin, be the leader Republicans are desperately looking for to guide their party out of the wilderness in 2010?
Unlike Fox News commentator and former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Palin attracts adulatory crowds wherever she ventures beyond her home state. On Wednesday, the Pew Research Center reported that 73 percent of Republican respondents rate her favorably, way ahead of Mitt Romney, her nearest competitor.
For Republicans to gain congressional seats in the 2010 elections they must energize their conservative base. Most Alaskans, who never met a federal dollar they didn’t like, were scratching their heads over Palin’s veto in May of federal stimulus money, though it made perfect sense as a ploy to solidify her appeal to the conservative base. The only other governor to reject the federal money was South Carolina’s Mark Sanford, who, like Palin, was eyeing a run for the presidency. His confession Wednesday that he’s been cheating on his spouse leaves Palin as the only charismatic Republican whose support of family values seems to fit her family life. Assuming, as I do, that Palin won’t be running for a second term in Alaska, she will almost certainly use her star power to help Republican candidates in 2010. Her help could prove decisive.
But is Palin the party’s best bet to overturn the Obama machine and capture the presidency in 2012? The conservative-leaning New York Daily News thinks not. “There are a treasure trove of scandals for a Democratic opponent to mine: Troopergate, … a wardrobe wracked up on campaign contributions, family travel paid for by tax dollars and the Bridge to Nowhere.”
I agree, although the New York paper skirts the real reason for her vulnerability as a presidential candidate. Sarah Palin’s problem is her character.
In 1991, my wife and I started the Alaska Budget Report newsletter. Our angle was ferreting the straight scoop about state government out of reams of boring state documents. When Gov. Walter Hickel blocked our access to state records, we sued. Gov. Tony Knowles clamped down even tighter on our access to public documents and fought our claims in court. The Alaska Supreme Court eventually ruled that the budget documents Hickel and Knowles had kept secret must be made public (and it forced the state to reimburse us for $22,000 in legal fees).
But Knowles’ successor, Frank Murkowski, carried governmental secrecy to an even higher level. His administration paid $25,000 in public money for a consulting report on how to combat negative public perceptions about Murkowski. When we asked for a copy, the administration declared it confidential and refused to make it public.
That’s why it was so refreshing when Sarah Palin, a woman who had stood up against corruption in the Murkowski administration, made openness and transparency in state government a central theme in her 2006 campaign for governor.
As Palin’s first Juneau press conference as governor was breaking up, she called my wife and I aside. With apparent sincerity, she asked us why we had so much trouble getting public records from previous governors. “Why wouldn’t they want you to have the full story about what they were doing?” she asked. It struck me at the time as both naive and refreshing.
Two weeks later I discovered a memorandum from a senior state attorney revealing that a top Palin aide had instructed him to keep documents secret from our newsletter, even if the legal basis for doing so was weak or problematic. A few weeks after that, Megan Stapleton, Palin’s then-press secretary, told me they were keeping the documents secret because the public might misunderstand them.
Since then Palin has become the most secretive governor in Alaska’s history. This month she refused to release even her official schedule, or reveal when she is leaving the state. Questions from reporters are often simply ignored or she answers a different question than the one asked. All the while she continues to mouth the claim that her administration is “open and transparent.”
When it comes to letting the public know what her government is doing, Sarah Palin is either a cynical hypocrite or delusional. Either way, it reveals something important about her character.
• Juneau economic consultant Gregg Erickson is editor-at-large of the Alaska Budget Report newsletter. He and his wife received the Alaska Press Club’s 2009 First Amendment Award. Erickson can be contacted at email@example.com.
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