In the comments to my article yesterday about Sarah Palin and her decision to skip attending this year’s CPAC, several “concern trolls” talked about how they really wanted to like Palin, but gosh darn it, they just couldn’t trust a “quitter” — citing her history of resigning from two positions before completing her terms. In 2004, she resigned from the Alaska Oil And Gas Conservation Commission, and in 2009 she resigned as governor of Alaska.
A clear-cut case of “she couldn’t stand the heat, so she got out of the kitchen,” right?
In both cases, her resignation was an eminently logical and predictable way of resolving an intractable situation — and it worked precisely that way.
Palin was named to the AOGCC post after she ran for and lost the Republican nomination for Lieutenant Governor. It was a sop to her, a way to keep her quiet and busy and not raising hell against the established old-boy network that was the Alaskan GOP. Instead, she did the unthinkable — she actually did her job and paid attention. And she found plenty of evidence of corruption among top GOP officials, which she tried to address.
And was shut down. She was given a perfunctory “don’t worry your pretty little head about man’s business, little lady” and told that she couldn’t do anything about it.
So, presented a situation where she was denied the ability to do the job she had sworn to carry out, she resigned and carried on the fight against the corrupt GOP officials as a private citizen — where she was unrestrained by the constrictions of her office. She filed the ethics complaints again, and triggered a cascade of investigations that led to several GOP leaders in Alaska resigning and paying very, very hefty fines for their unethical conduct.
Conduct that Commissioner Palin couldn’t address, but Private Citizen Palin could.
Then there’s her leaving the governor’s office. As I’ve said repeatedly, the reasons behind that are abundantly clear — if you just listen to what the woman says.
Pretty much as soon as she accepted the vice presidential nomination, her critics started filing ethics complaint after ethics complaint against her. And these were all pretty much bullshit. Each was dismissed (with the exception of one, where Palin’s people ran the numbers and found it would be cheaper to pay a settlement without admitting wrongdoing than fighting it).
But they still had to be investigated and defended against.
Under Alaska’s flawed ethics laws, any allegation has to be treated as serious and investigated thoroughly. This means that the accused has to defend against it, and the law also says that the accused has to pay the costs of that defense out of their own pocket.
But there is no penalty for filing bullshit complaints. Indeed, accusers are given extensive protections — guaranteed anonymity, no liability for false accusations, no expenses for filing, nothing.
So the system is rigged against the accused. If you don’t like a public official, just file a bullshit accusation, then step back and watch the state and your enemy spend scads of money proving beyond a reasonable doubt that it was bullshit all along.
And the attacks on Palin didn’t end after the November election. If anything, they escalated. But two particular complaints were the straws that broke the camel’s back.
The first was a complaint that said Palin couldn’t use funds raised in a legal defense fund on her behalf. Palin couldn’t accept any help from friends, supporters, or admirers to defray her mounting legal bills (all against bullshit “ethics charges”); she had to pay them all out of her own pocket.
The second (recounted in her book) was a complaint against one of her staffers for “engaging in partisan politics while on state time.” What happened was the staffer was walking through the state house when a reporter asked them a political question; the staffer answered it briefly, then returned to their business.
At that point, pretty much all of Palin’s staff was on notice: they had to be utterly paranoid about every single aspect of their job performance, or they, too, would be roped into spending major money (Palin’s legal bills alone added up to almost half a million dollars) defending themselves against bullshit charges.
At that point, Palin realized that her enemies were not about to stop their harassment of her and anyone who stood with her. They were threatening to bankrupt her and her people, and were costing the state millions investigating their bullshit charges.
Yeah, I keep saying “bullshit charges.” Decide for yourself:
3. Aug. 20, 2008: Complaint accused Palin of breaking election law by taking a public position on a mining ballot initiative days before the vote. Filed by Brian Kraft, founder of the Bristol Bay Alliance, a group that opposed the Pebble Mine prospect. Rejected May 8 by the Alaska Public Offices Commission.
7. Oct. 23, 2008: Complaint with the Federal Election Commission by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics alleged the $150,000-plus designer wardrobe the Republican Party bought to outfit Palin in her vice presidential quest violated Federal Election Campaign Act. The Washington watchdog group argued that candidates aren’t supposed to use donor money for personal expenses. The FEC ruled May 19 that party money is not covered by the ban.
9. Nov. 14, 2008: Accused Palin of partisan “post-election damage control” for talking to reporters about the campaign in her state office. Filed by Zane Henning, a North Slope worker from Wasilla, Palin’s hometown. Dismissed by state personnel board March 23.
10. Dec. 2, 2008: Alleged Palin violated ethics law by campaigning for Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia. Filed by Anthony Martin of Talkeetna. Dismissed by state personnel board March 23.
11. Dec. 18, 2008: Complaint contended Palin misused funds of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, a quasi-government entity, to promote her political ambitions with advertisements featuring her, violating ethics law. The ads promoting Alaska seafood ran in the National Fisherman last year through November. Dismissed Jan. 12 after a personnel board investigation determined Palin’s only involvement was to give permission to use her image long before she was named McCain’s running mate.
12. Jan. 12: Complaint alleging interference in a job hiring was filed under the name of Edna Birch, a busybody character on the British soap opera Emmerdale. Palin’s attorney, Thomas Van Flein, said no one by that name could be found living in Alaska and the filer refused to use a real name, so the complaint was dismissed Feb. 20.
13. and 14. Jan. 26: Two complaints filed by McLeod alleged two of Palin’s top aides misused their official positions for Palin’s personal and political gain. The complaints said then-press secretary Bill McAllister and Kris Perry — director of the governor’s Anchorage office — worked on state time to benefit Palin’s interests during and after her vice presidential quest. Pending.
15. March 18: Contended Palin improperly used state staff, property, time and equipment for partisan political purposes. One of the grievances cited was Palin’s posting of her veep candidacy on the official state governor’s Web site — http://gov.state.ak.us/archive.php?id=1439&type=1 Complaint filed by McLeod. Dismissed May 27 as lacking merit by personnel board May 27.
16. March 24: Contended conflict of interest by Palin because she wore Arctic Cat logo gear during the Tesoro Iron Dog snowmobile race. Palin’s husband, Todd, is sponsored by Arctic Cat in the race. Filed by Linda Kellen Biegel, a Democratic blogger. Dismissed June 2.
17. April 22: Alleged that work with Palin’s political action committee violated two provisions of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act by misusing her official position and accepting outside employment. Filed by Anchorage resident Sondra Tompkins. Dismissed as lacking merit by state personnel board May 8.
18. April 27: Contends Palin is misusing the governor’s office for personal gain by securing unwarranted benefits and receiving improper gifts through the Alaska Fund Trust. The fund was recently established by supporters to help Palin pay off more than $500,000 in legal debts stemming from other ethics complaints, including troopergate. Complaint filed by Eagle River resident, Kim Chatman. Pending.
Yes, most of these were resolved by the time Palin resigned. But can anyone say with a straight face that the stream of complaints would have ceased? Or that #18 would have been dismissed as well, leaving Palin on the hook for her legal bills for the rest of the term?
Palin was crippled as governor. She simply couldn’t carry out her duties as she had vowed to do. So she did the only honorable thing: she resigned and left her trusted lieutenant governor to carry out their work.
What gets Palin’s critics so bent out of shape over her “quitting” is that she is doing something virtually unheard of in major political figures, and utterly incomprehensible to most hard-core political junkies: she simply doesn’t feel the need to hold the reins of power. She is more interested in results than personal glory, and if achieving her ends means giving up power or prestige, then fine.
In both cases, her resignation did several things: it exposed and ended the machinations of their enemies, and freed her to continue her efforts without the constraints of public office.
That, folks, is not the mark of a “quitter.” That is the mark of a winner. That is the mark of someone who doesn’t take her eyes off her end goal, and doesn’t let herself be distracted by such concerns as ego or personal aggrandizement or the trappings of power and prestige to achieve what she sees as the greater good.
And in the process, she deftly and gracefully shows just what utter scumbags her enemies are, and what depths they will go to in their efforts to defeat her.
In some ways, she reminds me of someone else who liberals found dangerous to misunderestimate…