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Wasilla: Let’s Hire a Lobbyist to Get ‘Weapons,’ Etc.

ANCHORAGE — Tuesday I picked up a stack of cds that hold all of the meeting minutes, agendas, resolutions and legislation from Gov. Sarah Palin’s time as mayor of her hometown, Wasilla. Apparently, Sen. John McCain’s campaign hadn’t thought to do the same before tapping Palin.

Mike Lillis and Matt DeLong are pitching in to help me comb through everything. One of the interesting documents we’ve come across so far is the memorandum from 2000 (available here) outlining why the town should hire a federal lobbyist. According to the document and accompanying contract, it looks like the lobbyist started about four and a half months sooner than previously disclosed. The city council approved a $15,000 initial budget for the plan without much fanfare. The item passed unanimously and without public discussion, along with a list of other more mundane city politics business, according to meeting minutes from Feb. 14, 2000.

The resolution explains that the firm, Robertson, Monagle & Eastbaugh, had been successful in getting money federal money for a neighboring city. As The Washington Post reported this week, the lobbyist from the firm eventually assigned to Wasilla, Steven Silver, had worked on Sen. Ted Stevens’ staff. I just spoke with the city’s current mayor, Dianne M. Keller, who confirmed that Silver is still the town’s federal lobbyist.

In 2000, the city wanted money for a variety of public works and safety projects, plus “weapons” for its small police force:

The city could use the assistance of a lobbyist to receive appropriations with a number of projects including: $6.6 million for Wasilla Water Utility Improvements, two 12-inch wells, well pump houses, 3-million-gallon reservoir and transmission mains; $3.2 million Urban Storm Retention and Lake Water Quality Improvements, three lift stations, oversizing for pipes (Parks Hwy), side road connections; and $90K for various Wasilla Police Department safety equipment, communication needs and weapons.

The hire was a smart move. Between 2000 and 2003, Wasilla received $11.9 million in federal money, plus another $15.9 million in money specifically for transportation improvements. During that time, Sen. John McCain, a strong opponent of the earmarking system, complained three times about specific earmark projects heading for Wasilla, The Los Angeles Times reports today.

Palin has positioned herself as a reformer, announcing how she killed the infamous “bridget nowhere earmark” — without mentioning her initial support for the project. She’s got some serious repositioning to do to pull off the fiscal-reformer image.

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