A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Sarah Palin’s Accomplishments


Q: Is an Alaska fisherman’s list of Sarah Palin’s accomplishments accurate?

A: There’s some truth to a number of his claims, but some are also false or misleading.

FULL QUESTION

Are any of these claims true? And does anyone know who is behind sending this and other similar e-mails?

Subject: FW: Very interesting!!! Sarah Palin

I know some of you on my list lean left….. but please…read this & "think" about it. You don’t have to "like" her…but how can you not like her policy of cleaning out the crap that drives us all crazy every day.

By Dewie Whetsell, Alaskan Fisherman

As posted in comments on Greta’s article referencing the MOVEON ad about Sarah Palin.

The last 45 of my 66 years I’ve spent in a commercial fishing town in Alaska. I understand Alaska politics but never understood national politics well until this last year. Here’s the breaking point: Neither side of the Palin controversy gets it. It’s not about persona, style, rhetoric, it’s about doing things. Even Palin supporters never mention the things that I’m about to mention here.

[EET ]

1. Democrats forget when Palin was the Darling of the Democrats, because as soon as Palin took the Governor’s office away from a fellow Republican and tough SOB, Frank Murkowski, she tore into the Republican’s "Corrupt Bastards Club" (CBC) and sent them packing. Many of them are now residing in State housing and wearing orange jump suits The Democrats reacted by skipping around the yard, throwing confetti and singing, "la la la la" (well, you know how they are). Name another governor in this country that has ever done anything similar.

2. Now with the CBC gone, there were fewer Alaskan politicians to protect the huge, giant oil companies here. So she constructed and enacted a new system of splitting the oil profits called "ACES." Exxon (the biggest corporation in the world) protested and Sarah told them, "don’t let the door hit you in the stern on your way out." They stayed, and Alaska residents went from being merely wealthy to being filthy rich. Of course, the other huge international oil companies meekly fell in line. Again, give me the name of any other governor in the country that has done anything similar.

3. The other thing she did when she walked into the governor’s office is she got the list of State requests for federal funding for projects, known as "pork." She went through the list, took 85% of them and placed them in the "when-hell-freezes-over" stack. She let locals know that if we need something built, we’ll pay for it ourselves. Maybe she figured she could use the money she got from selling the previous governor’s jet because it was extravagant. Maybe she could use the money she saved by dismissing the governor’s cook (remarking that she could cook for her own family), giving back the State vehicle issued to her, maintaining that she already had a car, and dismissing her State provided security force (never mentioning – I imagine – that she’s packing heat herself). I’m still waiting to hear the names of those other governors.

4. Now, even with her much-ridiculed "gosh and golly" mannerism, she also managed to put together a totally new approach to getting a natural gas pipeline built which will be the biggest private construction project in the history of North America. No one else could do it although they tried. If that doesn’t impress you, then you’re trying too hard to be unimpressed while watching her do things like this while baking up a batch of brownies with her other hand.

5. For 30 years, Exxon held a lease to do exploratory drilling at a place called Point Thompson. They made excuses the entire time why they couldn’t start drilling. In truth they were holding it like an investment. No governor for 30 years could make them get started. Then, she told them she was revoking their lease and kicking them out. They protested and threatened court action. She shrugged and reminded them that she knew the way to the court house. Alaska won again.

6. President Obama wants the nation to be on 25% renewable resources for electricity by 2025. Sarah went to the legislature and submitted her plan for Alaska to be at 50% renewables by 2025. We are already at 25%. I can give you more specifics about things done, as opposed to style and persona Everybody wants to be cool, sound cool, look cool. But that’s just a cover-up. I’m still waiting to hear from liberals the names of other governors who can match what mine has done in two and a half years. I won’t be holding my breath.

By the way, she was content to return to AK after the national election and go to work, but the haters wouldn’t let her. Now these adolescent screechers are obviously not scuba divers. And no one ever told them what happens when you continually jab and pester a barracuda.. Without warning, it will spin around and tear your face off. Shoulda known better.

You have just read the truth about Sarah Palin that sends the media, along with the democrat party, into a wild uncontrolled frenzy to discredit her. I guess they are only interested in skirt chasers, dishonesty, immoral people, liars, womanizers, murderers, and bitter ex-presidents’ wives.

So "You go, Girl." I only wish the men in Washington had your guts, determination, honesty, and morals. I rest my case. Only FOOLS listen to the biased media.[/EET]

FULL ANSWER

Dewey Whetsell is a fisherman, musician, poet and former fire chief who lives in Alaska. He wrote the piece attributed to him above in July, and later posted it on his blog under the heading "Sarah Palin’s Accomplishments." He claims that the list of the former governor’s "accomplishments" are things that "even Palin supporters never mention." Palin even included the piece in her memoir, "Going Rogue." (It’s on page 405.) Whetsell’s commentary is now a chain e-mail that has been forwarded to us by many readers.

We tried contacting Whetsell twice to see if he would answer some specific questions about his claims, or provide a list of sources. The first time he said that he was traveling for an unspecified period of time, but that he would get back to us. "In the meantime," he wrote, "I get my information like most everyone else, from news releases on TV." The second time he said: "I just don’t have time or temperament for splitting hairs."

We’ll take a look at each of his claims below. Some are true or mostly true, and others are false or misleading.

Taking Down Republicans

Whetsell’s Claim: Democrats forget when Palin was the Darling of the Democrats, because as soon as Palin took the Governor’s office away from a fellow Republican and tough SOB, Frank Murkowski, she tore into the Republican’s "Corrupt Bastards Club" (CBC) and sent them packing. Many of them are now residing in State housing and wearing orange jump suits The Democrats reacted by skipping around the yard, throwing confetti and singing, "la la la la" (well, you know how they are). Name another governor in this country that has ever done anything similar.

Mosly False: It’s true that Palin defeated Frank Murkowski, the Republican incumbent, in the Republican gubernatorial primary in 2006. But the remainder of Whetsell’s tale is off the mark.

The "Corrupt Bastards Club" refers to a group of Alaska lawmakers who were brought up on charges of bribery, conspiracy and extortion for their connections with Veco Corp., an oil field services and construction contractor, between 2006 and 2008. A number of the people involved, including former state Rep. Tom Anderson and former state Rep. Vic Kohring, were sentenced to serve time in prison. But it wasn’t Palin’s office that led the investigation that resulted in several lawmakers and executives being put away. The federal investigation was headed by the FBI, along with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service. Whetsell seemingly acknowledged this point when he posted the piece on his blog, saying: "Oops, I shouldn’t have used the ‘CBC’ (Corrupt Bastards Club) depiction, which was a different unrelated event, but instead used ‘GOB’ (Good Ol’ Boys). Sarah’s narrative is accurate, mine is funny."

Palin does have a history of taking on established members of her party and in at least two prominent cases she "sent them packing." But that was before she was governor, and they didn’t end up in jail "wearing orange jump suits." While serving as a member of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Palin, acting on tips from members of her staff, questioned whether fellow commission member, Alaska Republican Party Chairman Randy Ruedrich, used his public office to engage in political business for the state Republican Party. The allegations led to an investigation, and Ruedrich subsequently resigned from the commission. He later reached a deal with the state under which he admitted to violating state ethics laws and agreed to pay a $12,000 fine. Palin also went after former Alaska Attorney General Gregg Renkes in 2003, alleging that he stood to benefit financially from a state coal trading deal (which Renkes had pushed) involving a company in which the attorney general owned stock. The Alaska Personnel Board went on to withdraw its complaint against Renkes, but he had already stepped down as attorney general anyway.

Sharing Oil Profits

Whetsell claim: Now with the CBC gone, there were fewer Alaskan politicians to protect the huge, giant oil companies here. So she constructed and enacted a new system of splitting the oil profits called "ACES." Exxon (the biggest corporation in the world) protested and Sarah told them, "don’t let the door hit you in the stern on your way out." They stayed, and Alaska residents went from being merely wealthy to being filthy rich. Of course, the other huge international oil companies meekly fell in line. Again, give me the name of any other governor in the country that has done anything similar.

Mostly True: The Alaska Legislature adopted a plan proposed by Palin in 2007 (Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share) that raised the tax that oil companies have to pay on their profits from a base rate of 22.5 percent to 25 percent. Oil companies, including ExxonMobil, opposed the tax hike, claiming it would affect their project investments. The revenue generated from the tax increase, which significantly added to the state’s budget surplus, allowed Palin’s administration to issue a one time "resource rebate" of $1,200 to eligible state residents in 2008 to help with increasing energy prices. The rebate came in addition to the annual dividend check ($2,069 in 2008) that residents receive as their part of the state’s oil wealth. Whether this classifies as making residents "filthy rich" is a matter of opinion, though. Palin got the idea from a Republican legislator, according to the Anchorage Daily News:

Anchorage Daily News, Aug. 8, 2008: It was Palin, after all, who last month proposed that lawmakers pay out a $1,200 resource rebate as a way for the state to share some of its multibillion-dollar oil revenue surplus with Alaska residents.

The idea for a people’s payment, however, originated in January with Haines Republican Rep. Bill Thomas, a commercial fisherman who suggested a $1,000 rebate, saying he was moved by a legally blind and diabetic friend forced to cut firewood for lack of money to buy heating fuel.

Cutting Earmarks

Whetsell Claim: The other thing she did when she walked into the governor’s office is she got the list of State requests for federal funding for projects, known as "pork." She went through the list, took 85% of them and placed them in the "when-hell-freezes-over" stack. She let locals know that if we need something built, we’ll pay for it ourselves. Maybe she figured she could use the money she got from selling the previous governor’s jet because it was extravagant. Maybe she could use the money she saved by dismissing the governor’s cook (remarking that she could cook for her own family), giving back the State vehicle issued to her, maintaining that she already had a car, and dismissing her State provided security force (never mentioning – I imagine – that she’s packing heat herself). I’m still waiting to hear the names of those other governors.

Mixture of true and misleading: Palin sold the governor’s jet that Murkowski purchased during his time as governor. She also opted not to have a chef in the governor’s mansion. But Palin didn’t "dismiss" her entire security force, as Whetsell suggests. According to the Anchorage Daily News, at one point during her administration, Palin "saved an additional $125,000 by reducing her security staff." The paper quoted a Palin aide saying that the positions were added back later, though. Palin also didn’t give up her state-issued Chevy Suburban until after she learned that she would have to pay taxes on whatever personal travel for which the vehicle was used.

And the claim that Palin cut earmarks 85 percent is misleading. Palin wrote in a March 2008 op-ed in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that "[o]ne of my goals as governor is making Alaska as self-sufficient as possible." But she also wrote that "I am also mindful of the role that the federal government plays in our state. The federal budget, in its various manifestations, is incredibly important to us, and congressional earmarks are one aspect of this relationship." In the 2008 op-ed, Palin herself claimed to have cut the dollar value of earmarks between her first and second year in office by 63 percent. But the Seattle Times found that the decrease was actually 22 percent, according to records released by Palin’s office.

Seattle Times, Sept. 2, 2008: [Palin] said in the News-Miner that she had slashed the state’s earmark requests by nearly two-thirds, down from $550 million in 2007 to just under $200 million.

Palin’s earmarks request came just days after President Bush promised in his State of the Union address to veto any spending bills from Congress unless lawmakers cut earmarks in half.

Yet documents Palin’s office released to The Seattle Times on Tuesday show her cuts in earmarks were far more modest than she claimed. Last year, Palin requested $254 million in earmarks, not $550 million, so her cuts this year were only 22 percent, not the 63 percent she claimed.

Furthermore, the difference between the value of earmarks requested during Palin’s first year and Murkowski’s last year was close to 27 percent — not 85 percent.

Anchorage Daily News, Sept. 5, 2008: For the 2007 federal budget year, the administration of former Gov. Frank Murkowski submitted 63 earmark requests totaling $350 million, Palin’s staff said. That slid to 52 earmarks valued at $256 million in Palin’s first year.

It is true that in the current fiscal year, Palin’s administration requested only eight total earmarks worth $69.1 million, which is an 87 percent cut in the total number of earmarks and an 80 percent cut in the dollar value of those earmarks compared with Murkowski’s final year. But that reduction came after Palin campaigned with Sen. John McCain in 2008, claiming she had said "thanks but no thanks" to the notorious "bridge to nowhere" earmark. Whetsell says the cuts happened after she "walked into the governor’s office," but they really came last February.

Correction, Jan. 5: We previously wrote that "we found no evidence that Palin cut earmarks by anywhere close to 85 percent." We deleted that and noted that Palin did cut earmarks by about that much, but only after becoming McCain’s running mate and campaigning against earmarks.

TransCanada’s Alaska Pipeline

Whetsell claim: Now, even with her much-ridiculed "gosh and golly" mannerism, she also managed to put together a totally new approach to getting a natural gas pipeline built which will be the biggest private construction project in the history of North America. No one else could do it although they tried. If that doesn’t impress you, then you’re trying too hard to be unimpressed while watching her do things like this while baking up a batch of brownies with her other hand.

Partly True: Unlike Murkowski, who proposed a deal to develop the pipeline with three leading oil companies, ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips, Palin proposed opening up the bidding on the project to other companies. This process led to the state entering a deal with TransCanda Corp., a Calgary-based company, to start preliminary work on the pipeline project with the state’s support. As the Anchorage Daily News reported:

Anchorage Daily News, Aug. 2, 2008: The state license, awarded under the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, or AGIA, which the Legislature passed at Palin’s request last year, is not a construction contract and does not guarantee a pipeline will be built.

Rather, it’s an exclusive deal under which the state will provide up to $500 million plus other incentives, such as a coordinator to speed up permits, in exchange for TransCanada doing its best to secure the customers, financing, and U.S. and Canadian regulatory clearances to build a line supplying not only Lower 48 gas consumers but Alaskans too.

The project remains in the early stages. According to a Dec. 20, 2009, story in the Calgary Herald, TransCanada doesn’t plan to submit regulatory applications until 2012, and the pipeline isn’t expected to begin service until 2018. Even if the project goes forward, it’s not certain that it would actually be "the biggest private construction project in the history of North America," as Whetsell claims. Palin claimed during the presidential campaign that building the pipeline would cost $40 billion. However, TransCanada estimated that the project would actually cost $26 billion. And at least one other project in history would be more expensive than that in inflation-adjusted dollars. The Trans Alaska Pipeline System, or the Alaska Pipeline, is an 800-mile oil pipeline that was completed in 1977. According to the Aleyska Pipeline Service Company, it was considered to be the "largest privately funded construction project at that time." Adjusted for inflation, however, the $8 billion price tag becomes nearly $28 billion in 2008 dollars — more than the estimated cost of the newly proposed pipeline project.

Point Thomson

Whetsell’s Claim: For 30 years, Exxon held a lease to do exploratory drilling at a place called Point Thompson. They made excuses the entire time why they couldn’t start drilling. In truth they were holding it like an investment. No governor for 30 years could make them get started. Then, she told them she was revoking their lease and kicking them out. They protested and threatened court action. She shrugged and reminded them that she knew the way to the court house. Alaska won again.

Misleading: ExxonMobil was one of the companies that had acquired leases to drill at Alaska’s Point Thomson field. And in January, while Palin was still governor, the oil giant was allowed to begin setting up two wells on two of the leases. The field went more than two decades without any of the leaseholders doing any drilling, which they blamed on the lack of a gas pipeline and other complications with the land. ExxonMobil was motivated to finally move forward with drilling when the state moved to revoke its leases. But that process began under the Murkowski administration; Palin continued what her predecessor had started. As the Anchorage Daily News reported:

Anchorage Daily News, Dec. 27, 2008: The state’s move to reclaim Point Thomson began under former Gov. Frank Murkowski’s administration in 2005, when the state’s oil and gas director at the time, Mark Myers, rejected Exxon’s "plan of development" for the field. It was the 22nd such plan the company had filed over the years.

Myers faulted the plan’s lack of a firm commitment to produce oil and gas. He said Exxon’s "30-year record of nondevelopment and delay … makes a mockery" of lease obligations.

The state had moved to cancel leases before, but never on such a prize as Point Thomson, or against so formidable an opponent as Exxon.

"Some have questioned our rationale," Murkowski would tell Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce audience. "Some have questioned our sanity."

After Gov. Sarah Palin unseated her fellow Republican in the 2006 election, she picked up what Murkowski started and has continued efforts to wrest control of Point Thomson away from Exxon and the other leaseholders.

Alaska’s Renewable Energy

Whetsell’s Claim: President Obama wants the nation to be on 25% renewable resources for electricity by 2025. Sarah went to the legislature and submitted her plan for Alaska to be at 50% renewables by 2025. We are already at 25%.

True: On the campaign trail, President Obama promised to require that 25 percent of the country’s electrical energy be generated by renewable sources by the year 2025. Palin, in January of this year, set an even higher production goal for Alaska: 50 percent of electrical energy from renewable sources by 2025. But is Alaska already producing 25 percent of its electricity from renewable sources? Nearly so, according to Peter Crimp, program manager for the Alaska Energy Authority.

Crimp told us that according to the 2007 Alaska Renewable Energy Atlas (based on a 2001 assessment), 24 percent of Alaska’s electrical energy (not including heating and transportation fuels) is made from renewable sources — mostly hydroelectric power. The Energy Information Administration also says that "hydroelectric power supplies about one-fifth" of Alaska’s electricity generation.

–D’Angelo Gore

Sources

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