Saturday, September 13, 2008

Don't Let The Truth Stand In The Way

"Sept 13: Fact Check

Watching the last twenty four hours of events, interviews and press releases, we take some time to offer up some fact checking.

From Troopergate to Charlie Gibson's interview with Governor Palin, we find a few statements and answers that test the boundries of truthiness.* (*Copyright. Stephen Colbert 2005)

On Troopergate; yesterday lawmakers voted to issue supoenas to thirteen individuals including Governor Palin's husband. Todd Palin has long been rumored to have had a key role in pushing members of his wifes staff to take action against Trooper Wooten.

Todd Palin is listed among in the official call log as making three phone calls to one of Governor Palin's aides, who then communicated with Bailey prior to a recorded phone call that outed Bailey and proved he was lying about never pressuring anyone to take action about Wooten.

Issue: After the joint judiciary committee meeting, Lt. Governor Sean Parnell issued this press release:

As a lifelong Alaskan and public servant, I'm disappointed by the complete hijacking of what should be a fair and objective process. It is troubling to see partisan Democrats and Obama supporters abuse their power, the legal system and trust of Alaskans to smear Governor Palin to score political points.

Arbitrary deadlines, inappropriate public comments and secret deals between Senator French and "independent" investigator Branchflower, have turned this process into a complete farce. This use of government power for political gain is an embarrassment to Alaska and the landmark ethics reform our state has achieved under Governor Sarah Palin.

Fact: This is sappy politics from Parnell, who will become governor if McCain wins.

The committee who voted to support the supoenas included four Republicans, all conservative, all McCain supporters. On my radio show following the hearing, Representative Jay Ramras (R-Fairbanks) said any allegations of partisianship were insulting.

"I've had a McCain sign in my yard since August 21 and I'm a proud supporter. My committee is comprised of staunch Republicans who also feel that this process is about getting to the facts."

And as far as Parnell talking about landmark ethics reform; this is a candidate who during his run for Lt. Governor back in 2006 took thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the same good old boys that Palin is now saying she took on. The same good old boys who have been indicted by the FBI.

And although it took the raids by FBI of state lawmakers offices for Parnell to return the donations, over his career the folks from Veco have been one of Parnell's greatest sources of campaign cash when he was a state legislator back in the 90's.

Issue: During the joint judiciary committee meeting yesterday, special investigator Steve Branchflower mentioned the need to supoena Murlene Wilkes, the owner of Harbor Adjustors, who has a contract with the State of Alaska to process claims for workers compensation.

Branchflower said there appears to have been some pressure put on the company from the governor's office to deny Trooper Wooten's workers compensation claim. The admission came from an employee of Harbor Adjustors, who apparently refused to go along with the pressure to deny the claim.

Fact: This is an email I received on August 18:

Item that may be of small interest to you, the ADN has had it for a week and done zero with it.

Officer Wooten had a workers comp claim on a back injury that went through Harbor Adjustors (Murlene Wilkes). Skinny is that the Gov's office advised his claim should be denied.

Gave the claim office photos of the officer on a snowmachine (undated/Palin-family taken shots)

HA handed it over to legal to handle (Murlene didn't want to get in the middle of what was obviously something personal, and as her only source of income is with a vindictive State gov contract, doesn't want to come out on this issue).

End of day, Wooden got pennies on the dollar for his claim, they wouldn't even pick up for the chiropractor.

Issue: Governor Palin's interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson regarding the Troopergate investigation.

GIBSON: The -- you mentioned the personnel board, it's a bipartisan legislative group, that's working at it now, which you said was fine, until you got named as the vice presidential nominee, and then you said the personnel board ought to handle it.

PALIN: We've said all along that … the personnel board is the appropriate agency or board to inquire -- our state statute says if there is a question about actions of the governor, lt. governor, or attorney general, you go to the personnel board. So we've said all along that that's appropriate …

Fact: Never....never had Governor Palin or her staff mentioned they felt the personnel board was the appropriate agency until after she was selected to become John McCain's running mate and was looking for a way to delay and stall the investigation.

In fact, the joint judiciary committee had a hearing scheduled for August 18, to discuss issuing supoenas, but the meeting was cancelled after the governor vowed to cooperate fully.

Issue: Governor Palin's interview with ABC's Charlie Gibson regarding the economy and budgeting.

PALIN: Reduce taxes, control spending, reform the oversight and the overseeing agencies and committees to make sure that America's dollars and investments are protected.

GIBSON: So let me break some of those down. You talk about spending. How much smaller would a McCain budget be? Where would you cut?

PALIN: We're going to find efficiencies in every department. We have got to.

GIBSON: So you'd take military off the table, the veterans' benefits. That's 20 percent of the budget. … Do you talk about entitlement reform? Is there money you can save in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid?

PALIN: I am sure that there are efficiencies that are going to be found in all of these agencies. I'm confident in that.

GIBSON: The agencies are not involved in entitlements. Basically, discretionary spending is 18 percent of the budget.

PALIN: We have certainly seen excess in agencies, though, and in -- when bureaucrats, when bureaucracy just gets kind of comfortable, going with the status-quo and not being challenged to find efficiencies and spend other people's money wisely ... then that's where we get into the situation that we are into today, and that is a tremendous growth of government, a huge debt, trillions of dollars of debt that we're passing on to my kids and your kids and your grandkids ... It's unacceptable.

Fact: During the 2006 gubernatorial campaign for governor, Sarah Palin spoke often about how she was going to cut state spending, review agency operations then prioritize state spending and cut those services that were not "constitutionally mandated". The words "finding effeciencies" seemed to be laced in every speech.

In January 2007, Governor Palin's initial budget proposed reducing state spending by $150 million for the fy08 budget. Six months later she signed the largest budget in state history. And although most of the press focused on the $231 million she vetoed from the capital budget, the fact is both the operating and the capital budgets came in at a combined $350 million higher than what she promised.

Along that same failed promise came the rate of savings. While saving for the future was the clarion call in justifying cuts to the capital budget, the $127 million she had promised to save ended up being just $5.6 million according to the Office of Management and Budget.

In December 10, 2007 Governor Palin introduced her administration's proposed fy09 operating budget. The administration touted a plan to hold operating state operating expenses to just a 4 percent increase,

However when Palin's budget proposal was analyzed by the legislative finance division, the administration's budget was found to be a 15 percent increase in spending, not the 4 percent as was originally advertised.

In an interview in March of 2008 with Anne Sutton of the Associated Press, Palin's Budget Director Karen Rehfeld said, "Until Alaskans decide what public services they don't want us to deliver any longer as a state, any significant reduction in the operating budget is going to be difficult."

Three months later Governor Palin signed the largest operating budget in the state's history at $6.1 billion, a 9% increase over her previous record budget."

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