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Monday, September 01, 2008

When toting up Palin's credentials, do not omit her experience as chair and ethics officer of the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission

I'm cross-posting here, with only slight revisions, a comment that I've left on a post from James Joyner at Outside the Beltway entitled Experience: Obama v. Palin.


Dr. Joyner: You, like most others who are only starting to look at Gov. Palin's credentials, have omitted her time as the chair and ethics officer of the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (the state agency which regulates oil and gas), which followed an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor in 2002 (in which she came in a close second in the GOP primary, losing by only a few hundred votes).

I'm not going to argue that the run for lieutenant governor is, on its own, a great credential. Contrary to those who argue that Barack Obama's qualifications to be president are proved by his success in the Democratic primary, I think the most one can say about experience in political campaigns is that they tend to make you a better candidate.

But Gov. Palin's service on the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission is significant. First, it marks the beginning of what's become a very in-depth exposure to the intersection between government and the energy industry. Alaskans in general tend to be more attentive to energy issues because so much of their state's economy and their state government's budget depend on that industry. But Palin has been focused heavily on energy more or less continually since 2004 — a claim that neither Barack Obama, Joe Biden, or (for that matter) John McCain can make.

Second, although she'd been a reformer and opponent of government corruption/favoritism since her time as a Wasilla city councilman and then mayor, she significantly expanded those credentials — at enormous potential political risk — in her capacity as the Commisson's ethics officer.

In particular, she focused on ethical lapses by fellow Commissioner Randy Ruedrich, who was also (and unfortunately still is) the statewide GOP chairman. Ruedrich was refusing to complete and file disclosure reports that would have detailed his personal dealings with energy-related companies. When Reudrich ignored her complaints, she went to the state attorney-general, Gregg Renkes. When Renkes ignored her (and threatened her with prosecution if she became a public whistle-blower), she went to the GOP governor who'd appointed her, Frank Murkowski. Murkowski was then, of course, one of the troika of Grand Poobahs of Alaskan GOP politics, along with Congressman Don Young and Senator Ted Stevens.

When Murkowski ignored her too, however, Palin resigned. And she had every reason to believe at that point that her political career, on a statewide or larger stage, was dead.

Nevertheless, despite the threats of prosecution, she went public as a whisle-blower. She wrote a famous op-ed for the state's largest newspaper which contained the memorable statement that the only difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is lipstick. And she proceeded to prove that point by continuing to direct public attention to the scandal.

She was helped along by criminal investigations that have since ended up with indictments and convictions of several public officials. Renkes was forced to resign as attorney-general. Reudrich ended up agreeing to pay a substantial fine for his ethics violations — not just the noncompliance with the disclosure forms, but substantive violations based on too-close ties with and favors from VECO, the drilling contractor that's been at the center of most of the Alaskan ethics scandals — and to quit the Commission.

And the capstone came when Palin ran in the 2006 GOP primary against the incumbent governor who'd appointed and then ignored and tried to silence her, Frank Murkowski. She whipped him soundly, and then went on to whip another former governor, popular Democrat Tony Knowles, in the 2006 general election.

Barack Obama mouths platitudes about how "he passed" ethics reform legislation in the U.S. Senate. In fact, that was done on a bipartisan basis in which he was only one of many senate sponsors, and it was at no risk to himself or his party. Palin, by contrast to Obama, actually put her entire political future on the line to take on political forces far better known and more powerful than she was, relying on nothing but her own integrity and, ultimately, the public's.

In terms of calendar tenure, then, her service on the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission is not terribly significant. But in terms of subject matters she was exposed to, it was significant, the beginning of an intense education in energy matters. And in terms of accomplishments, it's a résumé credential that ought not be slighted. It's proof positive of her integrity, her guts, and her zeal to stand up to corruption.

I hope you'll agree with me that this would be worth at least a mention in any discussion of Sarah Palin's credentials and experience.


UPDATE (Tue Sep 2 @ 10:18am): This Anchorage Daily News article from September 19, 2004, has an extensive discussion of Sarah Palin's service on the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, from her appointment in February 2003 through her resignation on January 16, 2004, including some of the events that occurred after her resignation.

Posted by Beldar at 01:18 PM in 2008 Election, McCain, Obama, Palin, Politics (2008) | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to When toting up Palin's credentials, do not omit her experience as chair and ethics officer of the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission and sent a trackback ping are listed here:

» POLITICS: More Than Just The Mayor from Baseball Crank

Tracked on Sep 2, 2008 11:06:33 PM

» POLITICS: The Integrity Gap, Part I of III: Gov. Sarah Palin from Baseball Crank

Tracked on Oct 2, 2008 2:22:21 PM


(1) Jamie Irons made the following comment | Sep 1, 2008 3:29:20 PM | Permalink


Watching her introduce herself after McCain picked her as V.P., I liked this woman immediately.

But this fuller account of her pluck, intelligence, and rectitude really impresses me!

Jamie Irons

(2) Gregory Koster made the following comment | Sep 1, 2008 4:42:25 PM | Permalink

Dear Mr. Dyer: You are right to point to this chunk of Palin's career, which is as underappreciated as Obama's chairmanship of the Annenberg Challenge. I've seen it said that Palin's resignation cost her nothing politically on the theory that the Murkowski family was declining and so coming out against them had little political cost. I don't think very much of that. Alaskans, I'm sorry to say, aren't especially bothered by corruption in high places, as witness Ted Stevens's winning 63% of the vote in the August Alaska primary, and Don Young holding onto a narrow lead while absentees are counted. Given that tolerance for such a squalid pair, coming out against the Murkowskis took courage. That there was calculation behind it, I don't doubt, but if we start indicting politicans for being calculating, the jails will be packed.

One thing I would like to see Palin asked is how this experience, which should have driven home the corruption inherent in states & nations that rely heavily on extraction industries for taxes, shaped her thinking on what Alaska needs to do to wean itself from oil revenue reliance. Renegotiating the severance tax agreement is a start in some ways, getting Alaska a better deal, but unless it is followed by an attempt to develop new industries that can help pay Alaska's way in the future. Government's role in this effort is limited, but tangible. As a Texan, you know that Texas oil has been a mixed blessing for Texas government. Look east to Louisiana, and the picture is even worse. This is why Bobby Jindal is making such a name for himself there. I'd like to read Palin's thoughts on this.

Sincerely yours,
Gregory Koster

(3) M. Simon made the following comment | Sep 2, 2008 4:34:47 AM | Permalink

Energy is going to be a big theme of this campaign.

Most of the Shrinking Media and almost all the Democrats are focusing on political and gossip issues.

They are going to be blindsided.

Sarah Palin is an energy expert. I blogged on this a couple of days ago. BTW just as in the days of the Kerry Campaign - Just One Minute is the goto place for the best links and analysis on the www. They are way ahead of the curve.

Let me add that Beldar is the best for in depth looks.

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