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The Washington Independent
The Washington Independent

Palin Administration: Portrait of Patronage

Describing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s tendency to appoint her friends to high-level state jobs, The New York Times wrote last month that The Wasilla High

Anderson Patterson
Last updated: Jul 31, 2020 | Oct 24, 2008

Describing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s tendency to appoint her friends to high-level state jobs, The New York Times wrote last month that “The Wasilla [Alaska] High School yearbook archive now doubles as a veritable directory of state government.”

TWI’s Laura McGann reported yesterday about Palin’s tendency to reward her friends with cushy jobs.

The Los Angeles Times today provides some more details, illustrating that, in a state already legendary for rampant corruption and cronyism, the Palin administration stood out as a hotbed of patronage.

Palin often tells audiences that, as governor, she “took on the good ol’ boy network” in her home state. However, according to The Los Angeles Times, Palin replaced the old “good ol’ boy network” with one of her own. From the article:

  • More than 100 appointments to state posts — nearly 1 in 4 — went to campaign contributors or their relatives, sometimes without apparent regard to qualifications.
  • Palin filled 16 state offices with appointees from families that donated $2,000 to $5,600 and were among her top political patrons.
  • Several of Palin’s leading campaign donors received state-subsidized industrial development loans of up to $3.6 million for business ventures of questionable public value.
  • Palin picked a donor to replace the public safety commissioner she fired. But the new top cop had to resign days later under an ethics cloud. And Palin drew a formal ethics complaint still pending against her and several aides for allegedly helping another donor and fund-raiser land a state job.

The article quotes a University of Alaska historian who describes Palin as having a “penchant for placing supporters, many of them ill-prepared, in high posts”

According to article, “all five Palin selections for the powerful Natural Gas Development Authority, which oversees a proposed gas pipeline project were donors” — a fact that may cloud the McCain campaign’s praise for Palin’s work in negotiating a $40-billion natural gas pipeline. If you stack the government’s deck with your supporters, how tough can the negotiations with the energy industry really be?

Palin’s friends from Wasilla also received choice appointments to the office of attorney general and to the state agricultural division. In the latter case, the woman appointed was previously a real-estate agent who cited a “childhood love of cows” as a qualification.

The article contains many more examples.

With the Bush administration’s politicization of the Justice Dept., failed response to hurricane Katrina and corporate profiteering from the war in Iraq, the United States has seen what can happen when powerful politicians put personal loyalty and political connections ahead of actual qualifications for high-level government posts. Palin’s apparent record in Alaska could provide a window into what a Palin vice presidency might look like.

Anderson Patterson | Anderson is a video editor and developer who believes in the power of visual organization. He recently graduated from the University of Washington, where he concentrated on post-production during his studies. He was first exposed to the mystical world of visual art creation while watching his father edit advertisements when he was a child, and he has been working towards his dream of becoming a video editor ever since.


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