Wednesday, September 3, 2008

From Alaska to Alabama, GOP Corruption Never Changes

The nation will receive its prime-time introduction to Sarah Palin tonight, when she speaks at the Republican National Convention. But for those of us who live in Karl Rove's Alabama, no introduction is necessary for the Alaska governor.

In the days since John McCain announced that Palin would be his running mate, a steady stream of stories in the press have cast doubt about her suitability for the job of vice president--or dog catcher, for that matter.

Stories about her personal and family life have been curious, perhaps even titillating. But stories about her professional life have been downright alarming. In fact, they reveal a kind of corruption that is right out of the Deep South Republican playbook. It's the kind of stuff with which we in Alabama are all too familiar.

Let's examine some of the disturbing themes in Palin's up-from-obscurity story. The discerning reader will see that this Alaska story has a strong Alabama flavor:

* The Jack Abramoff connection--We learn from TPM Muckraker that, while mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Palin oversaw the hiring of a lobbyist with ties to Jack Abramoff. The lobbyist, Steven Silver, listed Abramoff firm Greenberg Traurig as a client and said he lobbied the federal government on Greenberg's behalf on "issues related to Indian/Native American policy" and "legislation relating to gaming issues." Here in Alabama, we certainly know about Jack Abramoff and his interest in "Indian/Native American policy" and "gaming issues." Abramoff's interest in those issues, in the Deep South, started and ended with dollar signs. Alabama has a Republican governor with questionable ethics (Bob Riley) largely because Abramoff funneled $13 million of Mississippi Choctaw gaming money into our state to help defeat Democrat Don Siegelman.

* A problem with audiotapes--Palin's initial response to the Troopergate story was to lie and say that no one from her administration had pressured Alaska's public safety commissioner to fire state trooper Mike Wooten, who was going through an ugly divorce from Palin's sister. But then an audio recording surfaced, showing that a member of Palin's administration had indeed pressured Commissioner Walt Monegan to fire Wooten. Oops. I've seen that kind of thing in my termination from UAB. The university's president issued a statement saying I was fired for reasons solely having to do with work performance, that the decision had nothing to do with politics or the fact I write a blog. But then an audiotape surfaced showing that--surprise, surprise--my firing had everything to do with politics and my blog. Republicans seem to have this problem with indisputable evidence. Might help explain why Karl Rove doesn't want to testify before Congress.

* Costing people their jobs--By now, the story of Palin trying to fire Wooten, and then firing Monegan when he refused to fire Wooten, is well known to many Americans. But that's not the only time the governor has gone after someone's job. A posting by a woman named Anne Kilkenny, of Wasilla, Alaska, outlines Palin's penchant for trying to cost people their livelihoods. According to Kilkenny, Palin as mayor tried to fire the city librarian for refusing to remove some books that Palin wanted removed. Palin did fire the police chief and the city administrator--both highly regarded professionals, according to Kilkenny. Of course, this kind of thing has been going on for some time here in Karl Rove's Alabama. I was fired from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in May, after 19 years of service, for reasons that an audiotape shows were clearly political. And I am hardly alone. Huntsville defense contractor Alex Latifi saw his business ruined because of a bogus investigation and prosecution initiated by U.S. Attorney Alice Martin. Republican whistleblower Jill Simpson saw her law practice badly damaged after she made sworn statements indicating former Governor Don Siegelman was prosecuted for political reasons. And on a coast-to-coast level, the Bush Justice Department scandal began to surface when nine U.S. attorneys--all Republicans and Bush appointees--were fired, apparently because they refused to conduct their business in partisan ways.

So when Sarah Palin flashes her former-beauty-queen smile tonight and tells you that she's a "hockey mom" and a "reformer," understand that she is blowing smoke up a certain orifice that belongs to you. In fact, she is just another corrupt Republican, the kind who will say anything to attain power.

Here in Alabama, we've heard this all before.

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