Sarah Palin on Government Reform
Republican Governor (AK); 2008 nominee for Vice President
Now, this was all part of that hope and change and transparency. And now a year later, I got to ask the supporters of all that, how is that hopey-changey stuff working out for you?
See, I tried to look into that transparency thing, but Joe's meetings with the transparency and accountability board, it was closed to the public. Yes. They held a transparency meeting behind closed doors.
So I'm not sure if anybody's messing with Joe. But here is what I do know. A lot of that stimulus cash, it ended up in some pretty odd places, including districts that didn't even exist.
It would be wise of us to start seeking some divine intervention again in this country so that we can be safe and secure and prosperous again. To have people involved in government who aren't afraid to go that route, not so afraid of the political correctness that, you know, they have to be afraid of what the media would say about them if they were to proclaim their reliance on our creator.
Nick was the de facto leader of the council, but he became extremely annoyed when I didn't vote the way he did. That didn't bother me; I had to live with my own conscience, so I voted according to my principles and let the chips fall where they may. A vote on garbage seems like small potatoes. But it was not a small thing to me. I wanted our local government to position itself on the side of the people and preserve their freedom so that Wasilla could progress, and not restrict opportunities.
[In my 2006 campaign for governor], every part of our campaign shouted "Change!" A change in campaign financing: we ran on small donations from all over the state, mostly from first-time political donors, and we turned back some large checks from big donors if we perceived conflicts of interest. A change from photo-op stops to honest conversations with actual voters. A change from emphasizing politics to emphasizing people. A change from smooth talk to straight talk--even then.
We were amused a couple of years later when Barack Obama adopted the same theme. My campaign manager and I joked about it. "Hey! We were change even when change wasn't cool!"
When I was outside Juneau, I accepted the normal meal per diem of $60 but refused the per diem checks for the other six eligible First Family members, and we refused the housing per diem as well.
We slashed living expenses, and I drove myself to the Anchorage office and to most meetings and events. I was never paid to sleep in my own home, and I accepted only a meal per diem, despite what some critics would later accuse me of doing.
This while Juneau's own legislators, who lived right there in town, pocketed more than $20,000 in food and housing per diem payments in just one year.
At one point, my daughter aske a campaign staffer, "Who's paying for all this?" The staffer said, "Don't know. But it's taken care of. It's part of the convention."
I also wasn't used to the beautiful hotels we enjoyed on the campaign trail. In Wasilla, we have the Best Western Inn on Lake Lucille. We've used it for years, for everything from town hall to the high school prom.
As Governor, when I traveled on state business, I made frugality a point, asking for only reasonably priced rooms. So it wasn't often that we had the whole high-end, robe-and-slippers hotel treatment.
I especially wasn't used to over-the-top perks, such as the flat-screen TV inside the bathroom mirror, an innovation that drew cries of "Way cool!" from my girls.
I won by a handy margin, so I knew the voters were mandating "no more politics-as-usual."
The City Councilor who had originally recruited me to serve on the council, confronted me personally to announce that he intended to make my life difficult. He launched a recall effort. Within days, he and his cronies began holding public meetings, drafting a petition that said I was too inexperienced to do the job. When I cut my own pay, as I'd promised to do, they accused me of trying to shoehorn myself into a lower tax bracket.
Then another problem cropped up: Reudrich involved himself in adjudicating two cases that were closely intertwined with his old Doyon illegal dumping case. I urged Reudrich to recuse himself, but he refused. Democrats accused me of covering up for the GOP. The administration [declined an] investigation into the mess.
Nothing happened. So I had to MAKE something happen. I prayed long and hard. I loved the job. But I also knew I couldn't sit there and be a party to all of this. I knew what I had to do, so I resigned--stepping away from the ethical lapses & hierarchical blinders to effect change where I could --on the outside. Randy eventually agreed to pay the highest civil fine in Alaska history.
The CBC had started as a barroom joke. The name stuck--and some of the lawmakers thought it was so funny they had hats printed up that said "CBC." It wasn't so funny after the feds showed up.
We were going to change that. I made it clear to voters that I would base my decisions on principle and sound ideas, not cronyism or political expediency.
I released my budget, and insisted on showing the real numbers, including 800 existing state positions that previous administrations had funded off the books. This led some critics to claim that I had grown government by 800 people. No. These positions already existed. Prior administrations had simply refused to disclose it on the books.
I welcomed public scrutiny and invited the legislature and the public to look hard at other places to cut. Then we put our state checkbook online for all the world to see--we weren't the first, but it's a practice that has spread to other states
That pressure paid off when legislators approved an omnibus ethics bill. It included my administration's ethics proposal, as well as the House's muscular amendment that imposed criminal penalties on lawmakers who traded votes for campaign contributions. Plus, any legislator convicted of a felony would forfeit his or her state pension.
We were pleased that no one could claim pride of authorship on this. Finally the Capitol had pulled together and passed a strong bill. A Democrat lawmaker noted: "This is one of the best pieces of work I've seen come out of the legislature because it came out as a policy document and not a political document." It was music to my ears: POLICY, not politics.
I saw the second option as an utter waste of public resources. I signed a settlement tha stated clearly that I had not violated any law or travel regulation. One of the trips I reimbursed never actually took place. But I reimbursed the state for it anyway, even though I knew how the media would spin it.
And spin it they did. The method of attack seems to have come right out of Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals--the revolutionary handbook that taught leftists how to effectively obstruct their opponents. Alinsky's tactics had seemingly been updated by a new generation of left-wing activists
THE FACTS: Although travel records indicate she usually opted for less-pricey hotels while governor, Palin and daughter Bristol stayed five days and four nights at the $707.29-per-night Essex House luxury hotel (robes and slippers come standard) overlooking New York City's Central Park for a five-hour women's leadership conference in October 2007. With air fare, the cost to Alaska was well over $3,000. Event organizers said Palin asked if she could bring her daughter. The governor billed her state more than $20,000 for her children's travel, including to events where they had not been invited, and in some cases later amended expense reports to specify that they had been on official business.
THE FACTS: Of the roughly $1.3 million she raised fo her primary and general election campaigns for governor, more than half came from people and political action committees giving at least $500, according to an AP analysis of her campaign finance reports. The maximum that individual donors could give was $1,000; $2,000 for a PAC. Of the rest, about $76,000 came from Republican Party committees.
She accepted $1,000 each from a state senator and his wife in the weeks after the Republican lawmakers' offices were raided by the FBI as part of an investigation into a powerful Alaska oilfield services company. After AP reported those donations during the presidential campaign, she said she would give a comparative sum to charity after the general election in 2010, a date set by state election laws
THE FACTS: As Wasilla mayor, Palin pressed for a special zoning exception so she could sell her family's $327,000 house, then did not keep a promise to remove a potential fire hazard on the property. She asked the city council to loosen rules for snow machine races when she and her husband owned a snow machine store, and cast a tie-breaking vote to exempt taxes on aircraft when her father-in-law owned one. But she stepped away from the table in 1997 when the council considered a grant for the Iron Dog snow machine race in which her husband competes.
Can you think of any? Couric asked. All Palin could say was, "Well I would think of any again that could best be dealt with on a more local level, maybe I would take issue with."
Even inside the McCain campaign, those sympathetic to Palin were alarmed by the interviews. Her answer to the question about the Supreme Court left them bewildered. She had often railed about the Exxon Valdez case, but did not have the presence of mind to bring it up.
I had proposed we start with an overall reduction of seven percent from last year's expenditures. This is a real reduction, not just a reductio in the rate of spending increases--as cuts are often defined elsewhere. That's transparency in budgeting--just as the public saw when we put the state's checkbook online. We stand ready to work with lawmakers--who hold the purse strings--to amend the budget, as we receive revenue updates in weeks ahead.
I am implementing a hiring freeze, exempting public safety, and I am restricting non-essential purchases. These actions reduce the draw on savings as we monitor revenue for the rest of 2009.
PALIN: Our founding fathers were very wise there in allowing through the Constitution much flexibility there in the office of the vice president. Yeah, so I do agree with him that we have a lot of flexibility in there, and we’ll do what we have to do to administer very appropriately the plans that are needed for this nation.
BIDEN: Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we’ve had probably in American history. The vice president works in the Executive Branch. The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is when there is a tie vote. The idea he’s part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive.
A: Well, let’s see. There’s, of course in the great history of America there have been rulings, that’s never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know, going through the history of America, there would be others...
Q: Can you think of any?
A: Well, I could think of ... any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But, you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a vice president, if I’m so privileged to serve, wouldn’t be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.
A: His intention in expressing that was so that government did not mandate a religion on people. And Thomas Jefferson also said never underestimate the wisdom of the people. And the wisdom of the people, I think in this issue is that people have the right and the ability and the desire to express their own religious views, be it a very personal level, which is why I choose to express my faith, or in a more public forum. And the wisdom of the people, thankfully, engrained in the foundation of our country, is so extremely important. And Thomas Jefferson wanted to protect that.
A: I think that the example of McCain’s warnings two years ago about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--that’s paramount. That’s more than a heck of a lot of other senators and representatives did for us. He’s also known as the maverick though, taking shots from his own party, and certainly taking shots from the other party. Trying to get people to understand what he’s been talking about--the need to reform government.
Under past governors, there was lots of conversation in committees that revolved around knowing what the governor would or would not support and proceeding accordingly. However, during Governor Palin’s tenure, legislators would try to support projects (especially because state revenue was high), but Governor Palin would use her line-item veto to veto them without telling the local sponsor. This was very embarrassing to legislators, and she alienated many in the legislature because of it.
A: I think that’s significant, but even more significant is the role that the lobbyists play in an issue like this also. And in that cronyism--it’s symptomatic of the greater problem that we see right now in Washington and that is just that acceptance of the status quo, the politics as usual, the cronyism that has been allowed to be accepted and then it leads us to a position like we are today with so much collapse on Wall Street. That’s the reform that we’ve got to get in there and make sure that this happens. We’ve got to put government and these regulatory agencies back on the side of the people.
A: Yes, it is gridlock and that’s ridiculous. That’s why we don’t have an energy policy. That’s why there hasn’t been the reform of the abuse of the earmark process. And real reform is tough and you do ruffle feathers along the way. But John McCain has that streak of independence in him that I think is very, very important in America today in our leadership. I have that within me also. And that’s why John McCain tapped me to be a team of mavericks, of independents coming in there without the allegiances to that cronyism, to that good ol’ boy system.
A: Oh, I certainly didn’t mean to hurt his feelings. Didn’t mean to offend any community organizers, either. I do have respect for those who have chosen public service. And what I was doing though, certainly, should be obvious, was directing a comment to him as he had taken a shot at small mayors across the nation.
Q: So it’s payback?
A: You know, mayors of small towns, they’re on the front lines. They’re held accountable every single day that they are in office with real responsibilities that do demand that accountability and invite accountability.
A: No. False. Always been a Republican, not been a part of a party that has wanted to secede.
No one expects us to agree on everything. But we are expected to govern with integrity, good will, clear convictions, and ... a servant’s heart.
I pledge to all Americans that I will carry myself in this spirit as vice president of the United States. This was the spirit that brought me to the governor’s office, when I took on the old politics as usual in Juneau ... when I stood up to the special interests, the lobbyists, big oil companies, and the good-ol’ boys network.
Sudden and relentless reform never sits well with entrenched interests and power brokers. That’s why true reform is so hard to achieve. But with the support of the citizens of Alaska, we shook things up. I came to office promising major ethics reform, to end the culture of self-dealing. And today, that ethics reform is the law.
Anti-abortion fliers circulated. Ms. Palin played up her church work and her membership in the National Rifle Association. The state Republican Party, never involved before because city elections are nonpartisan, ran advertisements on Ms. Palin's behalf.
"Sarah comes in with all this ideological stuff, and I was like, 'Whoa,' " said Mr. Stein, who lost the election. "But that got her elected: abortion, gun rights, term limits and the religious born-again thing. I'm not a churchgoing guy, and that was another issue: 'We will have our first Christian mayor.' "
McCAIN: Oh, yes. She’s a partner and a soul-mate. She’s a reformer. I don’t particularly enjoy the label “maverick,” but when somebody takes on the old bulls in her own party, runs against an incumbent governor of her own party, stands up against the oil and gas interests--it’s a remarkable person. And I’ve watched her record, and I’ve watched her for many, many years as she implemented ethics and lobbying reforms. And she didn’t just vote for it. She led it. I’ve seen her take on her own party. One thing I know is that when you take on your own party in Washington, you pay a price for it. And she has taken on the party in her own state. She took on a sitting governor and defeated him. And so I’m so pleased and proud, because this is a person who will help me reform Washington and change the way they do business. And that’s what Americans want.
A: The planks in our party’s platform--they are solid. They are the right agenda for America. The planks [include] respect for equality and respect for life and an acknowledgment that it is individual Americans and American families who can make better decisions for ourselves than government can ever make for us. So individual freedom and independence is extremely important to me, and there are planks in our platform that reflect that.
A: Sen. Stevens’ indictment was very dismaying. Hopefully the Ted Stevens issues won’t be a distraction. But yeah, lots and lots of damage has been done by this oil industry service company, VECO. Not good for Alaska.
Q: What about the Republican Party in general? It seems to me the GOP has just got to cleanse itself of all the pork barrel, corruption, lobbying, cash-for-favors that cost them the Congress back in November 2006.
A: You’re absolutely right on the cleaning that’s needed in our party, in the Republican Party. And you know, I think Senator McCain is on the right track with the earmark reform that he’s so adamant about. I’m right there with him.
The State has successfully used eBay in the past to sell State assets, including a former Marine Highways ferry, and several Public Safety aircraft. The State’s surplus property disposal policy is to use eBay for high value, mobile assets because it offers the widest possible exposure for these types of sales, at a low cost.
The jet was purchased for $2,692,600 in November 2005 by the Murkowski administration. Until final sale, Governor Palin has authorized the Department of Public Safety to use the jet for suitable operational purposes.
Yesterday--at the BP forum--I was invited weeks ago to show up. Well, I’d already met with the BP group. I just met with the president of BP. Wasn’t able to re-arrange my schedule to get there yesterday. And I get home last night and all over the news is ‘Sarah was a no show. She wasn’t at the debate.’ “There’s a sign out front making it look like I was supposed to be there and I wasn’t. But I wasn’t supposed to be there.
A: Well, I killed the Bridge to Nowhere. And you know, I think I ruffled some feathers there, also, with our congressman who had been requesting that bridge for so many years. What we needed to do up there in Alaska, was find some good transportation between the two land bodies there. And we did. We found that with an improved ferry system between Ketchikan and its airport. But, the Bridge to Nowhere is, as I’ve been saying in my speeches, if it’s something that Alaskans really want and support, which at this time, they’re not willing to support to such an extent that we’ll pay for it ourselves, we better kill the bridge because we know the rest of the nation’s not going to pay for it.
McCAIN: I’ve been watching her. What she has been doing in Alaska has affected the representation in Washington. We’ve fought against the same adversaries, the same challenges. Look, we couldn’t get the “bridge to nowhere” out, although we tried.
Q: This was the big pork barrel project.
McCAIN: Yes, the pork barrel project, a $233 million bridge in Alaska to an island with 50 people on it. She, as governor, stood up and said, we don’t need it, and if we need it, we’ll pay for it ourselves. Now, that’s guts. I saw that, and I said, this, this is what we need in Washington.
A: Yes. I would like to see Alaska’s infrastructure projects built sooner rather than later. The window is now--while our congressional delegation is in a strong position to assist.
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