advice from a fake consultant

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Fake Consultant News Flash: Sarah Palin...What's The Dirt?

The Media will be abuzz today with the surprise of John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his Vice Cheney candidate.

But there’s some dirt hiding under the rug...

What is the history...who does she support...and when she talks about “open and transparent” government, what does that mean?

Put your snow boots on, people...and let’s have a look...

Let’s start with the milk business. Matanuska Maid, the State’s largest dairy, was owned and operated by the State from 1985 to 2007, basically to provide an outlet for the State’s eight dairies and to provide a local source of milk.

Unfortunately, the Dairy has been losing money, requiring the State to basically subsidize the industry by operating a money-losing buyer for the locally-produced product....and providing loans to the local dairies.

In a radio conversation, Governor Palin stressed the importance of the dairy to the State’s citizens, reminding them that “a local food supply is very important”. She wanted the public to know that they had nothing to fear about the future of the Dairy. She was excited, at the time, and was looking forward to the prospects for the Dairy in private hands, as it was at the time being readied for auction.

As it turns out, the “local” supply is anything but local. For years the dairy has been buying the majority of its milk from out of state (60% of milk processed by Matanuska was imported in 2006)...and as it turns out, there was something to least there was if you were one of the State’s eight “Class A” dairy farmers...or one of the Dairy’s two senior managers, who were racking up about $50,000 a year—each--in travel and entertainment costs (including multiple “working lunches” on the same day...), based on this unusual business standard for what are, more or less, State employees:

“Long standing practice is that we are allowed to use our judgment when determining whether an activity has merit for travel purposes. We do not have limits established for these costs.”

Nobody was interested in buying the money-losing operation.

The State has signed a lease agreement for the dairy’s equipment that seems to have foreclosed any chance that the facility would ever return to that business; and in the summer of 2008 they tried again to sell the asset, lowering the price from $3.5 million to $1.5 million...and there was success...and as a result the State of Alaska’s citizens can patronize a new heated storage facility that, obviously, cannot process the local food supply that is apparently no longer so important. (By the way, that imported milk the Governor worries about: $3.99 a gallon in Anchorage...the average price in Seattle--in 2003? $3.52).

So that’s let’s talk about gas.

Alaskans are anxious to develop resources in the State, and to that end there have been various proposals to build a gas pipeline that would link the extremely remote North Slope to the rest of the world.

You would think in a time of historically high petroleum prices that this sort of project would be a self-supporting business...but the Republican, theoretically free-market supporting, Governor Palin (and the majority Republican Alaska Legislature) convinced Alaskans to pay $500 million in subsidies to TransCanada Corporation, not for an actual pipeline, but to allow TransCanada to find partners and additional financing...and beyond that, there’s tax relief for those who use the pipeline. (Just a guess...but you wanna bet this will not be the last subsidy to Big Gas/Big Oil before this Big Deal is done?)

Subsidies to the builders, subsidies for the customers...and a commitment to the Free Market that “Uncle” Ted Stevens would love...that seems to be energy plan Vice Cheney nominee Palin endorses.

John McCain is famous for his pledge to eschew “pork-barrel” spending in Arizona...and in what seems to be an effort to get back to “average” he has chosen as a running mate the Governor of the State that’s Number One in earmarks...and as much Federal spending within its borders annually as it has private payroll.

Palin ran on a platform of “open and transparent government”...but those days are now, apparently, over.

Palin’s husband, Todd, seems to be unusually involved with State personnel decisions...and conversations about “blogger management”...despite not having any formal role in State government.

Which brings us to “Troopergate”.

You’re probably already hearing that Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan was fired by Palin for refusing to fire an Alaska State Trooper (the equivalent of a State Police Officer).

If Andrew Halcro, the former Republican State Legislator who ran as an Independent for Governor against Palin in 2006 is to be believed, the backstory is full of dirt (and budget intrigue)...and now we know there’s at least one thing the Governor and her running mate have in common—nasty divorces.

The story, as Halcro tells it, goes something like this:

First, according to Halcro, Moneghan would not agree to cutting the budget for the Troopers, despite the Governor’s insistence. Moneghan, it’s reported, felt that the Troopers had been shortchanged for several budgets in a row—and he felt that it would be imprudent to cut the budget, again, in a time that calls for service were increasing...and the price of fuel is increasing...and the Troopers often have to respond to calls in airplanes because of the size of the State.

He reminded the Governor that social trends—like the price of heating oil in cash-starved communities—had the potential to increase the demand for service on the Troopers...and he felt that if the budget was cut further the Troopers might not be able to respond to every citizen call.

(“Reforming” a budget by cutting essential services. Sound familiar?)

The other issue: Governor Palin’s sister and her very nasty divorce.

She married an Alaska Trooper, Mike Wooten, and after they split up she and the family filed 25 separate complaints against him over a 10 month period. According to Halcro, 24 of the 25 were dismissed.

The 25th?

Wooten has acknowledged illegally killing a moose in 2003...which the Governor’s father butchered...after which the meat was shared with the rest of the family...including the not-yet-Governor and her husband.

In 2005 this became an issue after Wooten sought equal custody of his children...and that’s when the complaints began. Quoting Halcro:

But every time they filed a spurious complaint, the Troopers would bring in an Administrative Investigator who after seeing more than two dozen of these ridiculous and time consuming complaints stated that in all his years he had never seen such a shotgun pattern against one officer.

The custody battle began anew in 2008, and it is alleged that the Gov herself is involved in trying to get him fired...and somehow, information from Wooten’s personnel file seems to have found its way into the hands of the ex-wife—and her attorney. A more compliant Commissioner of Public Safety, Chuck Kopp, has been appointed, possibly protecting the Governor from any further internal investigations, such as the one Former Commissioner Moneghan was planning.

So that’s the story for today...Vice Cheney Nominee Palin, the fresh face with executive experience that McCain has brought to the table, is giving away half a billion dollars in taxpayer money to the Big Gas/Big Oil (for openers), has overseen the end of a “dairy industry subsidy” she couldn’t save, pulled the blinds down on “open and transparent government”, kind of “hired” her husband to be an unofficial “Personnel Director”, has apparently decided that the mantra of “anti-spending” is much more important than public safety—even while her State is the recipient of more than $11,000 in Federal spending per Alaska citizen--and she’s going after her sister’s ex-husband, and of course, there’s also that bipartisan “abuse of power” investigation she’s now dealing with...

Not bad for two years in office, eh?


Dr.T said...

What an outstanding piece of real journalism you have written. It is very refreshing to hear the truth instead of the corporate Newspeak version of an issue or a person's image. Great work.

jmb said...

So does she have anything going for her except that she's a woman?

Colin Campbell said...

She can shoot large animals and makes them into pies.

fake consultant said...

thanks so muck for the kind words, for starters, but let's take a second a go to the question.

what she has going for her is that she represents the "hard right" of the republican party's supporters...and the worry for republican "management" is that voters who see the world from that hard right perspective are not convinced mccain is the "real deal"--potentially leaving those voters home, and not voting, on election day.

and let's not forget, in the world of christian conservative/national rifle association/hard right republican politics, shooting guns and killing things is a life-affirming practice.

to make it better, she's from alaska, where people not only hunt...they do it because they actually need the meat.

so for republicans, on friday, she was the perfect choice.

on saturday, however, stories began to circulate that may prove to be undoing of that relative perfection.