by Matt Saldaña
Over the weekend, several major news organizations--including the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal--published lengthy investigations into Sarah Palin's record as mayor of Wasilla and governor of Alaska. The results may harm Palin's cultivated image as a fiscal conservative and reformer of the "good ol' boy" system in politics. They also direcly contradict statements made by Palin and John McCain in interviews and stump speeches on the campaign trail.
Last week on "The View," when asked if Palin had requested Congressional earmark funding, McCain responded, "Not as governor she didn't." In reality, Palin has sought $453 million in earmarks through her second year as governor, including $223 million for the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere," a project she vigorously promoted, yet later abandoned after it became untenable--a position she has misrepresented in her stump speech. The Wall Street Journal reports that Palin's earmark requests as governor also included $9 million in taxpayer money to "help Alaska oil companies" and $4.5 million to "upgrade an airport on a Bering Sea island that has a year-round population of less than 100." The article notes that Palin has railed against the abuse of earmarks, which she has called "un-American," in interviews and speeches, including a criticism of Barack Obama's requests for earmarks that did not take into account her own use of the funding.
"Our opponent has requested nearly one billion dollars in earmarks in three years. That's about a million for every working day," the Journal quoted her as saying at a rally in Albuquerque, N.M., earlier this month. However, using this same calculation, the Journal found that, as governor, Palin requested $980,000 in earmarks per workday, while Obama sought roughly $893,000 per workday.
In perhaps the best researched story on Sarah Palin to-date, the Washington Post examines the vice-presidential candidate's term as mayor of Wasilla, and reports that, despite a dearth of city responsibilities--due to the Alaska oil industry subsidizing many government services, and state and municipal government controlling typical city functions in Wasilla, including schools, social services, environmental regulation and firefighting--Palin increased the city's budget by nearly 50 percent, while clamping down on museum and library services. Under her budget, Palin created a deputy administrator position that effectively limited the mayor's day-to-day responsibilities of running a town with a population of 5,500, and hired a lobbyist to pursue earmark requests:
Further buttressing the budget were the earmarks Palin sought for the town after hiring a Washington lobbyist for $38,000 a year. The town secured $27 million in all, including $1.9 million for a transportation hub, $900,000 for sewer repairs and $15 million for a rail project.
Despite the city's flush accounts, the police department under the chief Palin hired to replace Stambaugh required women who said they had been raped to pay for examination kits themselves, a policy Palin now says she rejects. State legislation passed a year later required the town to pay for the kits.
Meanwhile, the New York Times examines a culture of secrecy, a hiring system apparently based on personal friendships and loyalty, and a blurred line line "between government and personal grievance" under the Palin administration in Juneau, where records show Palin was rarely present as governor.