Sunday, October 26, 2008

Full Court Press vs. Palin

Palintology: Except for Troopergate which is still pending, the vetting by the media of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for vice president is in its final gasps. The results are not flattering for the hockey mom turned reformist. Nor are they reassuring. What we have learned since John McCain shocked the political world by tapping her as his running mate is she's -- heaven's to Betsy-- an old school politician. Some people may cringe at her religious leanings: from Catholic to evangelical (influenced perhaps by a minister who dabbles in witchcraft) and an unshakable stand against abortion. Her style of governance -- which strikes at the heart of the ethics violation an independent prosecutor and legislative panel determined in her firing of the state public safety director in Troopergate -- is reminiscent of the good-old-boy oil and Republican network she so proudly toppled. As governor she appointed friends and supporters to state government positions, according to an investigative report in the Los Angeles Times Saturday. At least one was forced to resign because of a sexual harassment verdict against him. Another half dozen or so failed to meet minimum qualifications to perform their appointed jobs yet remain on the state payroll. Earlier investigations reported she filed per diem expenses and reimbursements while living in her own home. And before that, stories debunked her claim she sold a state plane on Ebay and told Congress no thanks for earmarks for the bridge to nowhere which she actually accepted and spent for related projects. Again, with the exception of Troopergate, the news vetting process portrayed a politician who fibs and fabricates on occasion, crosses the line of ethics for personal vengeance and cheats a little on her expense accounts. One may ask, what politician doesn't? At worse, she is a hypocrite. At best, she's hounded by a pack of media wolves looking for dirt and finding a few gritty morsels.

Pipeline Pipe Dream: Sarah Palin's signature achievement boasted during her debate with Sen. Joe Biden was negotiating a contract to build a 1,715-mile pipeline to deliver natural gas to the lower 48 states. Now we learn from an investigative report by The Associated Press the bidding process was rigged in favor of a contractor with ties to the Palin administration in Alaska. Among the findings: a) Instead of a bidding process to attract many builders, Palin slanted the terms away from the three giant oil conglomerates who own the drilling rights. b) Despite promises and legal guidance not to talk directly with any potential bidder, Palin telephoned or held meeting with all parties, including TransCanada which eventually was the winning bidder. (c The leader of Palin's pipeline team was a former partner of a lobby retained by TransCanada; the woman's former business partner at the lobby was lead lobbyist for TransCanada for the pipeline team, and a former executive of TransCanada served as a consultant for Palin's pipeline team. d) Four years earlier under different rules, TransCanada submitted a bid without a state subsidy; under the Palin administration, TransCanada would receive a maximum $500 million subsidy. Building such a pipeline has been a dream for years by Alaska and energy executives. Now with rising energy prices and as oil reserves on the North Slope diminish, the rush to build is reaching the critical stage. The former TransCanada lobbyist was appointed after Palin passed new ethic laws which banned lobbyists' from state government for one year following employment as a lobbyist. Palin's staff said there was no impropriety. Her critics, including Republican Sen. Lyda Green, told the AP the presence of TransCanada's past and current employees involved in the negotiating process was wrong and why she voted against the contract. "Every time it (the apparent conflict of interest) was mentioned to the governor," Green said, "it was like 'how could you question such a wonderful person.'" Five companies submitted bids for the pipeline. Four were rejected because they failed to meet the bidding requirements. That left TransCanada as the lone bidder. The company now faces environmental and other government regulations to hurdle. The AP said it does not have the funds or the credit to borrow the $40 billion required to start the pipeline for at least 10 years. That's not exactly the picture Palin painted in her Oct. 2 debate and on the campaign trail. What's worth noting is that it is the media and not the McCain campaign which thoroughly has vetted the candidate who could become our next president. Little wonder even the staunchest Republican conservatives reject Palin as not ready for national office.

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