Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Associated Press: Lots of Words and Not Much Substance

An Associated Press story dealing with Gov. Palin’s ethics problems is pretty thin gruel. For anyone who takes the time to actually read this flood of words (which desperately need a layout editor), the anonymous reporter(s) has trouble coming up with anything substantive.

The first paragraph lists the AP’s three main points: 1) a report concluded Palin “abused her powers to settle a family score,” 2) “has skirted state ethics rules before for personal benefit,” and 3) “used her office to help friends and supporters.”

AP doesn’t mention that the report on abuse of powers was chaired by a political opponent who supports Sen. Obama and that no governmental action has been taken on it. Not even censure. Which leads one to question the seriousness of the report. If there really is abuse of power, why isn’t any action being taken?

Then comes a supposed big bomb. “To raise money, she improperly used her City Hall office and equipment, city records show . . . .” Many paragraphs down in the article we find a little about this. Actually only two things. 1) she already apologized for 2006 errors (before the intrepid AP got to the story) and 2) the AP dug out that “the city initially paid for a campaign flight in that 2002 race and that weeks later she reimbursed the city” [years before AP got to the story].

It turns out there was a billing error on the campaign flight, and that Gov. Palin personally reimbursed the city as soon as she found out–within weeks of the trip--and then got reimbursed by her campaign. This is an ethics problem? Actually, it shows honesty and ethics. What is the AP thinking of?

AP reports that as governor Palin “has repeatedly taken actions that violated her own stated standards for ethical behavior --if not state law. In the process, the Republican vice presidential nominee has become much like the old-school politicians she attacked during her rise to power.”

Exhibit one is that Palin “pummeled opponents for giving oil companies and other businesses too much control of state government. Yet she appointed the founder of an engineering firm that received $6.8 million in state business as head of the transportation department.”

Again, only many paragraphs down in the story is there any background on this and, surprise!, the AP is forced to admit that the guy appointed “stopped taking a salary and all benefits from the company” and “recused himself on projects pursued by the firm and that others in the agency select companies to receive state business.” But, the AP bulldog won’t let go. He still has stock in the company. Sheesh, if you can’t hold stock and serve in government, that pretty much slims down the candidate pool doesn’t it?

Another bomb: “She has accepted dozens of gifts worth tens of thousands of dollars since taking office, including two free trips last year that she failed to report on disclosure forms, despite criticizing state legislators for the gifts they take.”

But, it turns out that “Palin has, in fact, reported most of her gifts on her annual financial disclosure forms, something her predecessor never did, according to Alaska Public Offices Commission records.” The AP managed to find two unreported free trips. “‘This is simply a rare oversight, nothing more,’ campaign spokesman Griffin said when asked about the omissions by the AP.”

That’s it. The big news is two unreported trips. One worth $2,988. But it turns out that “Palin received the same free trip as dozens of other governors invited over the years to attend the annual summit, institute spokesman April White said.” Apparently, there are lots of governors out there the AP will be investigating.

The second trip involved two $150 lodge suites which not only Palin, but her parents and family used. It involved a family retreat at a lodge which was not open for business at the time but made available to the family by a friend. Is AP really scraping here?

Another charge: “She is under another investigation, accused of misusing her office to campaign against a voter referendum calling for tighter mining regulations. Her husband, Todd, has accepted free trips from a mining company to look at their proposed new site.”

Who is doing the investigating? We’re never told. No more details are given on this. Why a free trip for her husband, who is not on the government payroll and has no official government position, is an issue, the AP doesn’t say. Is he under investigation too? Again, the AP doesn’t say.

Finally, “Another ethics complaint, unresolved, accuses her staff of finding a state job for a friend and campaign contributor.”

Imagine, a politician’s staff finding a state job for a friend and campaign contributor! It’s what the political executive does. I hate to let AP in on the secret, but when the newly elected president takes office, he will bring lots of friends and supporters into his administration. And his staff will do the job finding for them.

That the people Gov. Palin has brought in are doing a pretty good job can be seen by her 80% approval rating as governor.

Doesn’t AP wish it had even half that good a competence and trust rating from its public? Unfortunately, articles like this are bound to drive AP’s approval rating even further into the cellar.

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