Alaska's 2007 Muckraker of the Year Ray Metcalfe is in the first category - a person who keeps on coming back, knowing that our state laws and guidelines on ethics for elected officials and state employees are often poorly written, vague or meaningless. His fights to get the truth out about behind-the-scenes deals involving people all across the political spectrum go back into the 1980s.
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is in the second category. If one might distill the muckraker story she has tried to sell into a single sentence, it might read, "I fought the good ol' boys and their crooked deals, whether it was in Wasilla, Frank Murkowski's office, or the Alaska Republican Party."
Her battles in 2003 and 2004 against Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission member Randy Ruedrich, and her involvement in the complaints that led - in part - to Ruedrich's resignation from that board, have long been held by Palin and her supporters to be the central pillar of her title claim as an "Ethics Reformer." The fact that Ruedrich was then also Chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, and a possibly powerful blocker, should she choose to move upward, is the central pillar of her claim to be a "Maverick."
In 2004, Richard Mauer, Alaska's finest investigative reporter, published a long article about Palin's role in Ruedrich's exit from the Commission. In light of this week's announcement by the Governor's office that she has reached an agreement to return almost $10,000.00 to the state for illegal travel charges she made since her term as governor, it is probably time to compare her statements regarding the 2003-2004 complaint period to what she is stating now, regarding the travel expense repayment agreement.
In Mauer's article, written after the Ruedrich affair was past, he writes of Palin's serious concerns about Ruedrich combining AOAGCC business with dates that coincided with Republican Party meetings or activities. She complained that he emailed from a computer in his AOAGCC office. She searched it herself, while he was out of the office.
She complained Ruedrich wasn't open when confronted about combining possible personal business or Party business with AOAGCC functions. Regarding Palin's concerns about the last of these matters, here's a lengthy excerpt from Mauer's article:
Palin asserted several times in the 2004 Mauer article, that Ruedrich's combinations of possible personal, business and party activities with his duties as a state employee were wrong. Because Ruedrich didn't supervise a lot of people, possible misuse of the time of those serving under him never came up.
Long before she found those e-mails on Ruedrich's computer, Palin came to fear that she and the commission would lose all credibility in the Valley. She attended many of the same meetings as Ruedrich, she said, and tried to be neutral. She said she was upset by his promotion of the industry.
But the final blow came when the commissioners were in a meeting in Anchorage in October, and she asked Seamount, who had firsthand experience with coal bed methane as a geologist in the Rocky Mountain states, to represent the commission on an Anchorage radio call-in program.
A few minutes later, Seamount charged into her office. "No, no, no, no, this isn't right. He should not be doing this," Seamount told her.
"And I was telling Dan, 'I thought you called in, I thought you were talking.' And he said, 'No, Randy heard you asking me to call in so he went over to his office and he just called in, and he's on the radio right now.' So I turned it on, and went, 'Oh, no.'"
In the complaint Palin and then-State Representative Eric Croft made against then-Attorney General Greg Renkes, Palin was quoted numerous times as believing the complaint process against Renkes, including all documents relevant to the case, should be made public. Even after the case was closed, and Renkes disgraced, Palin stated, "It's important to get these documents made public so Alaskans can make their own judgments."
In the Governor's statement on repaying the thousands of dollars she illegally took from Alaskans, this particular paragraph is the most galling, after re-reading the Ruedrich and Renkes material:
It is troubling that this complaint was such an obvious political weapon, with an associate of a political adversary filing this and making it public – against state law – just before the election. Beyond objecting to the obvious gamesmanship that serves the public so terribly, I think it is important to prevent the ethics act from being used as a tool to ensure that only the wealthy can seek higher office in Alaska.
Many have written about the ironies of Palin touting herself as an ethics reformer, while at the same time performing, herself, in extremely unethical modalities, sometimes on several levels simultaneously.
Frank Gwartney, who filed the complaint, has now been slimed by his Govenor. He merely read an accurate article, immediately realized that what Palin had done was 100% wrong, found out how to complain, did that, and let people know the truth. All he gets from this so-called ethics reform maverick is an accusation that he has violated state law.
For me, this is one of the most despicable things Sarah Palin has yet done. At least that we know about.