Cracks appearing in Palin's "reform" facade

The Republican vice-presidential nominee is being portrayed as a change agent, but recent reports throw that image into question.

Published September 8, 2008 5:17PM (EDT)

If you listen only to the McCain-Palin campaign, you'll get an image of Palin as a "maverick" who "battled Republicans and reformed Alaska." That's true -- but only to a point. And, as reporters continue to look into her record, they find just how limited that record might really be.

On Monday, for instance, the Los Angeles Times' Tom Hamburger and Kim Murphy wrote:

A strange thing happened on the ethics issue once Palin became governor: She appeared to lose interest in completing the task of legislating comprehensive reform, some who supported the cleanup say.

The ethics bill she offered was so incomplete that its supporters had to undertake a significant rewrite. Moreover, when it came to building support for the bill, politicians in both parties say the new governor was often unaccountably absent from the fray.

And the seeming paradox of the ethics reform fight -- the combination of bold, even courageous readiness to take on a tough issue, coupled with a tendency to drift away from the nitty-gritty follow-through -- appears to be a recurrent theme of her record.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Mother Jones' David Corn reported on an instance in which Palin's administration seemed to be, in an echo of the Bush administration, something less than fully transparent. Describing the experience of Andrée McLeod, an Alaskan woman who considers herself a government watchdog and who'd requested e-mails that she suspected would show Palin aides had done political work on government time, Corn writes:

More intriguing than any email correspondence contained in the four boxes was what was not released: about 1100 emails. Palin's office provided McLeod with a 78-page list cataloging the emails it was withholding. Many of them had been written by Palin or sent to her. Palin's office claimed most of the undisclosed emails were exempt from release because they were covered by the "executive" or "deliberative process" privileges that protect communications between Palin and her aides about policy matters. But the subject lines of some of the withheld emails suggest they were not related to policy matters. Several refer to one of Palin's political foes, others to a well-known Alaskan journalist. Moreover, some of the withhold emails were CC'ed to Todd Palin, the governor's husband.

Finally, separate from the reform angle, on Saturday the Wall Street Journal took a look at one of Palin's biggest projects during her time as mayor of Wasilla, the building of a new indoor sports complex. "What was to be Ms. Palin's legacy has turned into a financial mess that continues to plague Wasilla," the paper's Michael M. Phillips says.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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