The New York Times printed a story on Sunday, ‘Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes.’ This is part 2 of my deeper look into this story.
According to the Times, either you are in her circle or you are out. Kind of like Robert De Niro in Meet the Parents, Palin has hired many close friends and has branded her opponents as ‘haters’. We’ll also look at opinions of some of the members of Alaskan politics.
Friends & Family
Assembling her cabinet, staff and state appointments: (here are some interesting lines from the article)
“… those with insider credentials were now on the outs. But a new pattern became clear. She surrounded herself with people she has known since grade school and members of her church.”
“The people she hires are competent, qualified, top-notch people.” – Lieutenant Governor Parnell
“The Wasilla High School yearbook archive now doubles as a veritable directory of state government.”
Fran Havemeister – A high school classmate – appointed director of the State Division of Agriculture. She cited her childhood love of cows as a qualification for running the roughly $2 million agency. Havemeister was one of at least five schoolmates Ms. Palin hired, often at salaries far exceeding their private sector wages.
She appointed a pastor to the town planning board.
Talis Colberg – a borough assemblyman from the Matanuska valley – appointed to Attorney General. “I called him and asked, ‘Do you know how to supervise people?’ ” said a family friend, Kathy Wells. “He said, ‘No, but I think I’ll get some help.’ ”
More on Colberg: (from Alaska Department of Law website)
From 1984 to 1985 Colberg was an associate attorney in the law firm Kopperud and Hefferan in Wasilla, Alaska. From 1985 to 1992 he served as staff counsel to The Travelers Insurance Companies. Until his appointment as Attorney General for the State of Alaska, he was in sole practice from 1992 and was also an Adjunct History Instructor at Matanuska-Susitna College, teaching Eastern and Western Civilization.
In addition to his legal practice and teaching responsibilities, Colberg was active in the community. He was elected to two, three-year terms on the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly. From 1992 until his appointment, he was a member of the Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce. From 1998 to 2001 Colberg served as a member of the Matanuska-Susitna Valleys State Park Citizen Advisory Board. From 1995 to 2001 he served as a Director of the Board as well as Secretary and President for the Alaska State Fair, Inc. From 2002 through 2006, Colberg served on the Board of Directors for the Alaska Humanities Forum and was elected Chairman of that Board from 2004 to 2005. He is also a Past President of the Palmer Rotary Club, where he has been a member since 1992.
Alaska State Fair? That rings a bell. Wasn’t Palin supposed to be appearing at the Fair when she was diverted to Ohio to be announced as John McCain’s running mate? Wait – that’s not it. I’m thinking of Michael Brown, who was Bush’s director of FEMA. His previous experience was as Judges and Stewards Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association. I wonder if Colberg is doing a heckova job, too.
Joe Austerman – classmate – Manage the economic development office.
John Bitney – a former junior high school band-mate – appointed legislative director. He was fired after Palin learned that he had fallen in love with another longtime friend.
Another reason for leaving was missed by the NY Times:
John Bitney leaves governor’s office on eve of new ethics law
Mon, July 9, 2007
One of the Palin administration’s key movers behind the ethics bill — and other major issues during this year’s session — has left government service. John Bitney worked as an independent lobbyist before joining the Palin campaign last year and then continuing as her legislative liaison, responsible for giving priorities to the governor’s legislative agenda.
John Bitney (center)
I don’t know how the Times missed this. But this story is just as interesting as the one they went with. The ethics reform candidate had Bitney – a lobbyist – working on her campaign and in her administration. She really is John McCain’s soulmate.
Yet another aspect of this story – it keeps getting better – is Bitney was allegedly having an affair with Debbie Richter, wife of Scott Richter. Mr. Richter’s name has become synonymous with an alleged affair with Palin.
‘First Dude” Todd Palin –
“When Palin had to cut her first state budget, she avoided the legion of frustrated legislators and mayors. Instead, she huddled with her budget director and her husband, Todd, an oil field worker who is not a state employee, and vetoed millions of dollars of legislative projects.”
Pennsylvania for Change has more on the First Dude. [Read: Todd Palin, the Shadow Governor]
Palin frequently has referred to her opponents as ‘haters.’ You’ve seen what she does to her friends – you don’t want to be her enemy.
Dan Fagan - It is amazing how much they all look like Rush Limbaugh
Dan Fagan, a prominent conservative radio host and longtime friend of Ms. Palin, urged his listeners to vote for her in 2006. But when he took her to task for raising taxes on oil companies, he said, he found himself branded a “hater.”
It is part of a pattern, Mr. Fagan said, in which Ms. Palin characterizes critics as “bad people who are anti-Alaska.” Sound a little familiar?
City attorney, Richard Deuser: A builder said he complained to Mayor Palin when the city attorney put a stop-work order on his housing project. She responded, he said, by engineering the attorney’s firing.
Museum Director, John Cooper: After Cooper was fired a Palin aide went to the museum and told the 3 remaining employees that only 2 would be retained “and we had to pick who was going to be laid off,” said Esther West, one of the 3 employees. The three quit as one.
In the middle of the [2006 Republican] primary [for governor], a conservative columnist in the state, Paul Jenkins, unearthed e-mail messages showing that Ms. Palin had conducted campaign business from the mayor’s office. Ms. Palin handled the crisis with a street fighter’s guile.
“I told her it looks like she did the same thing that Randy Ruedrich did,” Mr. Jenkins recalled. “And she said, ‘Yeah, what I did was wrong.’ ”
Mr. Jenkins hung up and decided to forgo writing about it. His phone rang soon after.
Mr. Jenkins said a reporter from Fairbanks, reading from a Palin news release, demanded to know why he was “smearing” her. “Now I look at her and think: ‘Man, you’re slick,’ ” he said.
Sherry Whistine – blogger
And four months ago, a Wasilla blogger, Sherry Whitstine, who chronicles the governor’s career with an astringent eye, answered her phone to hear an assistant to the governor on the line, she said.
“You should be ashamed!” Ivy Frye, the assistant, told her. “Stop blogging. Stop blogging right now!”
What the politicians say about her …
‘Many lawmakers contend that Ms. Palin is overly reliant on a small inner circle that leaves her isolated.’ This sounds a little like Bush to me.
‘Since taking office in 2007, Ms. Palin has spent 312 nights at her Wasilla home, some 600 miles to the north of the governor’s mansion in Juneau, records show.’ This is kind of like Bush spending his time in Crawford.
Democrats and Republicans alike describe her as often missing in action.’ This sounds more like McCain now. He missed 4 months of votes during this year.
‘During the last legislative session, some lawmakers became so frustrated with her absences that they took to wearing “Where’s Sarah?” pins’.
‘Many politicians say they typically learn of her initiatives — and vetoes — from news releases.’
‘Mayors across the state, from the larger cities to tiny municipalities along the southeastern fiords, are even more frustrated. Often, their letters go unanswered and their pleas ignored, records and interviews show. ‘
‘Last summer, Mayor Mark Begich of Anchorage, a Democrat, pressed Ms. Palin to meet with him because the state had failed to deliver money needed to operate city traffic lights. At one point, records show, state officials told him to just turn off a dozen of them. Ms. Palin agreed to meet with Mr. Begich when he threatened to go public with his anger, according to city officials.’
‘At an Alaska Municipal League gathering in Juneau in January, mayors across the political spectrum swapped stories of the governor’s remoteness. How many of you, someone asked, have tried to meet with her? Every hand went up, recalled Mayor Fred Shields of Haines Borough. And how many met with her? Just a few hands rose. Ms. Palin soon walked in, delivered a few remarks and left for an anti-abortion rally.’
More to come . . .