There is a saying from Larry Hardiman that says the word, politics, comes from a derivation from the word "poly" meaning many and "ticks" meaning blood sucking parasites. This may be a tongue-in-cheek saying, but it rings true for those who are tired of the dishonesty and tone deafness of politicians. Politicians who campaign with soaring rhetoric and lofty promises, yet fail to deliver when they get to their state capitals or to Washington D.C.. Politicians who try to set themselves apart as women and men of character, yet fail prey to the temptations of pay-to-play politics and back room dealings when they are elected. Politicians who campaign on reform of government, but give in to the temptations of corruption and seize the opportunities to grasp the power of picking winners and losers. This is why a citizen candidate has become so attractive to many. Many Americans wish to see a man or woman who is unadulterated by the influence of political power and unaffiliated with governmental cronyism. It is very rare to find someone who has defied the normal outcomes of political life by taking on corruption, making transparency a cornerstone of his or her agenda, and calling out the crony capitalism and crony corporatism that is so pervasive in today’s politics by actually fighting all of these ills from the inside. However, it seems that Governor Palin is who has indeed done that–both in word and in deed.
Although Governor Palin currently holds no political office, she has made a point on multiple occasions to call Washington D.C. out on their corruption. In April of 2010, during the discussions of a financial reform bill, Governor Palin highlighted how lobbyists from the financial industry flocked to D.C. and discussed how such reform would allow regulators to pick winners and losers:
Moreover, the financial reform bill gives regulators the power to pick winners and losers, institutionalizing their ability to decide “which firms to rescue or close, and which creditors to reward and how.” Does anyone doubt that firms with the most lobbyists and the biggest campaign donations will be the ones who get seats in the lifeboat? The president is trying to convince us that he’s taking on the Wall Street “fat cats,” but firms like Goldman Sachs are happy with federal regulation because, as one of their lobbyists recently stated, “We partner with regulators.”
They seem to have a nice relationship with the White House too. Goldman showered nearly a million dollars in campaign contributions on candidate Obama. In fact, J.P. Freire notes that President Obama received about seven times more money from Goldman than President Bush received from Enron. Of course, it’s not just the donations; it’s the revolving door. You’ll find the name Goldman Sachs on many an Obama administration résumé, including Rahm Emanuel’s and Tim Geithner’s chiefs of staff.
More recently, Governor Palin has challenged the Obama administration and Congress for the revelation that 20% of Obamacare waivers given out in April were given to Congresswoman Pelosi’s district calling such distribution of waivers "corrupt" and calling anyone who supports the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda of centralized government takeovers and crony capitalism as "complicit". In her appearance on Eric Bolling’s show, Hannity, On the Record, and Judge Janine’s show last week, she reiterated her stance on this issue, also highlighting that Senator Reid’s state of Nevada also received a waiver as did AARP, who lobbied very hard for the passage of Obamacare. Governor Palin also challenged Congressman Issa and others in Congress to investigate the suspect selectiveness of these waivers. In fact, the Department of Health and Human Services has only released information on those who received waivers, not those who were denied waivers. So much for the most transparent administration ever.
Governor Palin’s strong stance against crony capitalism, bureaucrats picking winners and losers, and a lack of transparency is not just words; it’s action. In her comments about last year’s financial reform bill, Governor Palin highlighted several key points of her administration:
We need to be on our guard against such crony capitalism. We fought against distortion of the market in Alaska when we confronted “Big Oil,” or more specifically some of the players in the industry and in political office, who were taking the 49th state for a ride. My administration challenged lax rules that seemed to allow corruption, and we even challenged the largest corporation in the world at the time for not abiding by provisions in contracts it held with the state. When it came time to craft a plan for a natural gas pipeline, we insisted on transparency and a level playing field to ensure fair competition. Our reforms helped reduce politicians’ ability to play favorites and helped clean up corruption. We set up stricter oversight offices and ushered through a bi-partisan ethics reform bill. Far from being against necessary reform, I embrace it.
One of the key pieces of her gubernatorial legacy was ACES–an oil tax structure that replaced the corruption tainted tax structure of the previous administration capped by the indictment of legislators, gubernatorial staff, and oil company employees– was inline with the state constitution, and provided tax breaks for oil companies engaging in capital improvements. As I wrote in a post in March, this legislation was passed in a transparent manner:
Governor Palin released a draft of the bill 17 days before the Special Session to enable both the legislature and the public to read the proposal prior to its discussion in the legislature. Her oil and gas team also held a series of briefings throughout the state prior to its discussion in the Special Session to allow the people of Alaska to be informed about the proposal. The bill was passed very easily in both the House and the Senate with bipartisan support before Governor Palin signed it in December of 2007. In signing this bill, Governor Palin removed the taint of corruption from taxation negotiation process and submitted a strong piece of legislation ensuring that the people of Alaska received their “clear and equitable share” as shareholders in the resources of the state.
Additionally, the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act (AGIA), her transcontinental gasline project, was negotiated in a transparent manner as well. In fact, her administration made gasline proposals available for public consumption, which was a 180 degree difference from the back room dealing of the previous administration. One of her gubernatorial campaign pledges was to put the state’s checkbook online so that constituents could see how state monies were being spent, and this is something she fulfilled. Governor Palin’s mention of challenging one of the world’s largest corporation referred to her administration challenge of ExxonMobil for sitting on their drilling leases and not fulfilling their contracts with the state. This firm stance also brought drilling to Point Thomson by ExxonMobil for the first time in more than 25 years. Additionally, as Governor Palin mentions, she signed bipartisan ethics reform into law as well.
Citizen candidates do indeed bring a fresh perspective to a campaign and even to public office. However, there is something to be said for someone who took on corruption while in elected office. Such an individual has governed or legislated in an atmosphere of corruption, back room deals, and cronyism and has not only weathered such an atmosphere, but has effected change for the better. It is one thing to act as a citizen watchdog; it is another to make sure that legislation and projects are transparent and are void of back room deals and crony capitalism. Governor Palin is such a person.