A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Did Palin Sell a Jet on eBay?


Q: Did Sarah Palin sell the Alaska governor's jet on eBay?

A: The jet was placed on eBay for sale, but it wasn't purchased from the site. The plane was eventually sold through an aircraft broker to businessman Larry Reynolds for less than the asking price and the original cost.

FULL QUESTION

Did Sarah Palin sell the governor's plane on eBay? If not, how was it sold and how were the profits used?

FULL ANSWER

During her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Gov. Palin said that she put the jet purchased by Alaska's former governor up for sale as an example of her attempts at ethics reform:

Palin, Sept. 3: I came to office promising major ethics reform to end the culture of self-dealing. And today, that ethics reform is a law. While I was at it, I got rid of a few things in the governor's office that I didn't believe our citizens should have to pay for. That luxury jet was over-the-top. I put it on eBay.

John McCain, however, took the claim a step further just days after Palin's speech, suggesting that Palin had not only sold the plane on eBay, but made money on the deal as well. At a campaign stop in Wisconsin on Sept. 5, McCain said, "You know what I enjoyed the most? She took the luxury jet that was acquired by her predecessor and sold it on eBay — and made a profit!" But that wasn't the case.

Palin was referring to a Westwind II jet that had been purchased by former Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski. According to the Anchorage Daily News, Murkowski purchased it in 2005 for his traveling needs, and other purposes, despite objections from state officials and the public that it was an unnecessary expense. The jet cost the state more than $62,000 in quarterly payments.

Palin made selling the unpopular jet a priority during her campaign for governor in 2006. After defeating Murkowski in the Republican primary and then winning the general election, Gov. Palin went ahead with plans to auction off the plane. She announced her decision to sell the jet on eBay on Dec. 12, 2006, in a press release, which cited Alaska's "successful" use of the Web site to sell other things previously, including other aircraft and a ferry.

Going Once…Twice…Sold?

After attempts to sell the plane on the online auction site failed to produce the desired result, the state turned to Turbo North Aviation, an aircraft dealing company, to find a buyer. The New York Times reported that there was "one serious" potential buyer who responded to the Internet listing, but according to Alaska's director of administrative services for the Public Safety Department, the deal fell through. The jet was eventually purchased by Larry Reynolds, a businessman of Valdez, Alaska. But the state didn't make a profit; instead, it lost money on the deal. According to news reports and a release from Palin, Reynolds only paid $2.1 million for the jet, several hundred thousand dollars less than the $2.7 million Murkowski originally paid for it in 2005, and still less than the nearly $2.5 million price tag theAnchorage Daily News reported that Robert Heckman, owner of Turbo North Aviation, had suggested as an asking price for the jet.

It's worth noting that during her retelling of the situation during her convention speech, Palin didn't actually say that she "sold" the plane on eBay. She only said that she "put it on eBay." That's correct. But to some, it may have implied that the plane was actually purchased from the online vendor, which wasn't the case.

A HuffingtonPost blogger also said that Palin's comments made it seem as though the idea to put the plane for sale on eBay was all her own. Whether she was taking sole credit or not we can't say, but as various reports show, including a press release from Palin's office, this wasn't the first time the state had attempted to sell something on the site, with or without success.

In addition, CBS News' Scott Conroy noted that during her speech at a campaign rally in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Sept. 10, "[i]nstead of delivering her usual line about putting the Alaska governor’s private jet on eBay, Palin said simply, “the state’s luxury jet, it’s sold.”

In February, the Anchorage Daily News reported that Reynolds would use the jet as part of an air charter service, transporting hunting enthusiasts on expeditions to Russia.

— D'Angelo Gore

Sources

Yardley, William. "Jet That Helped Defeat an Alaska Governor Is Sold." New York Times, 25 Aug. 2007

Kornblut, Anne. "Plane Not Sold on eBay." The Trail, washingtonpost.com, 5 Sept. 2008

U.S. Governor's Office of Sarah Palin. "Governor Palin Will Sell Jet." Press Release, 16 Dec. 2006

U.S. Governor's Office of Sarah Palin. "Westwind II Jet Sold to Valdez Businessman." Press Release, 24 Aug. 2007

Hopkins, Kyle. "Palin tries new tactic to unload hated jet." Anchorage Daily News, 2 Sept. 2008

Hopkins, Kyle. "Governor's jet to be sold on eBay." Anchorage Daily News, 13 Dec. 2006

Hopkins, Kyle. "Valdez man says he'll buy state's unwanted jet." Anchorage Daily News, 21 Aug. 2007.