Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sarah Palin's Own Style Of Travelgate

– guest post by Denis Campbell, editor of

Gov. Sarah Palin, you have some explaining to do, as Ricky Riccardo would say to Lucy.

It seems Mr. and Mrs. Alaska charged the state for travel to bring their progeny to events. Gov. Palin charged the state for her children to travel to events where they were not invited, and later amended expense reports to specify that they were on official business.

Remember the first year of the Clinton Administration in 1993? How quaint the Republican Party attack and smear machine now looks trying every trick in the book to stop or slow the new President’s agenda? The relentless attacks from fear against former House Judiciary Committee counsel, then First Lady, now US Senator Hillary Clinton’s attempt to craft a national healthcare program?

Remember the silly kafuffle over the White House Travel Office’s ‘Travelgate’ probe and Republican calls for an independent prosecutor to look into the Administration’s use of that office – which led nowhere? How about the Whitewater Development investigation, where the feds spent hundreds of millions of dollars to investigate a failed real estate investment development that lost money for the Clinton’s?

And then trying to say the terribly sad suicide of family friend and political advisor Vince Foster during the furore was not a suicide, ascribing all sorts of ludicrously nefarious conspiracy theories?

Ah, those were the days.

They were the salad days of the Republican Party’s new foray into a brand of politics from a young Bush 41 advisor named Karl Rove. Say anything enough times and it becomes true whether or not it is. It’s why there was all of that right wing frothing at the mouth over nothing for the first 18-months of the Administration.

Well, you just never know when payback time comes around! The only thing you do know is that it always does.

Expensing Her Life

The charges racked up by Gov. Palin included costs for hotel and commercial flights for three daughters to join Palin to watch their father in a snowmobile race, and a trip to New York where the governor attended a five-hour conference and stayed with 17-year-old Bristol for five days in a luxury hotel. Hey, Mommy bonding time is probably what was needed to keep Bristol from getting in trouble, right?

Palin charged the state $21,012 for her three daughters’ 64 one-way and 12 round-trip commercial flights since taking office in December 2006. In some other cases, she has charged the state for hotel rooms for the girls.

Alaska law does not specifically address expenses for a governor’s children. The law allows for payment of expenses for anyone conducting official state business.

As governor, Palin justified having the state pay for the travel of her daughters — Bristol, 17; Willow, 14; and Piper, 7 — by noting on travel forms that the girls had been invited to attend or participate in events on the governor’s schedule.

Uninvited Guests

But organizers of some of these events say they were surprised when the Palin children showed up uninvited, or said they agreed to insistent requests by the governor to allow the children to attend.

Several other organizers said the children merely accompanied their mother and did not participate. Palin claimed the trips enabled her to spend more time with her children.

Of course, this presumably does not include any of the 300+ travel per diems totalling some $17,000 she claimed for state travel when working from her Anchorage home.

How much do you want to bet the MSM ignores this story?

Denis Campbell is editor of

McCain Aide Acknowledges Voter Suppression Strategy

Six days ago, I wrote about how a solid contact inside the McCain campaign explained to me what’s left for McCain ( in the remaining days of the election battle after his terrible performance in the third debate.

“Voter suppression and wonky Diebold machines,” my contact said then, adding “It’s our last hope.” He stuns me into a long silence. Breaking the awkward pause, he quickly added, “I’m just kidding.”

It turns out that, even though he did not know it at the time, my source was serious.

“There have been meetings and conference calls between people here (at McCain’s campaign headquarters), people at the RNC and groups out in Ohio, Colorado, Florida, Pennsylvania and maybe a few other states creating a strategy to harass voters and challenge ballots,” he tells me this morning in a call he makes to me on his cell phone from the safety of his car.

“This isn’t what I signed up for and I don’t want to be a part of it. I may resign in the next day or two.”

I sit in my office, dumbfounded. Here is a relatively important person inside a presidential campaign acknowledging that McCain and the Republican National Committee are conspiring secretly with outside groups to sabotage the presidential election.

Why, I ask, are they doing this?

“I think it’s because they know the election is lost in a fair fight so they want to cast doubts on the legitimacy of Obama’s victory,” he says. “Hell, we’re losing it in an unfair fight in spite of the bullshit about Ayers.

“Anyway, in the process they might just pull off a win if they can challenge enough voters or scare people away from voting,” my source adds. “With the polls against him, they need a distraction on election day.”

Just Like Zimbabwe

I reach a second contact in the McCain campaign, a woman I’ve known for decades who works in one of the dwindling number of swing states, to learn if she’s heard anything similar.

“Well, I don’t get a lot of the insider scuttlebutt ‘cause I’m not in McLean (Virginia, where McCain’s campaign office is located),” she reminds me. “But it fits with rumors I’ve heard and stuff floating around the office and on the web.”

I wonder whether she thinks it is a legitimate strategy for a presidential campaign to condone.

“Ask Steve Schmidt,” she shoots back with more than a tinge of bitterness in her voice. “It sounds like something straight from Rove’s playbook. If you can’t beat them, scare them. If you can’t scare them, make sure their votes don’t count.”

I hang up thinking this sounds like Zimbabwe. Or Haiti or some other backwater country ruled by a tin pot dictator. I wonder if the United States needs the Carter Center to monitor the US elections as it did in Gaza and some African nations.

Frightening Reality

The frightening reality is that GOP-backed groups are systematically looking for ways to prevent Democrats from casting a ballot Nov. 4.

As Robert F. Kennedy Jr., told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC Tuesday night, ( Colorado has purged up to 12% of all voter registrations and, in a Rolling Stone article ( Kennedy details how the tactic is spreading to other states.

Not coincidentally, Pres. Bush put former Colorado Republican Secretary of State Donna Davidson in charge of showing voting officials how to “clean up” their registration lists. For “clean up” you can substitute “get rid of Democrats, especially minorities in urban areas.”

Even if your name isn’t purged and you aren’t challenged at your voting place, Kennedy notes your vote may still not count. The US Commission on Civil Rights investigated some of the 2000 returns from Florida and found that African-Americans were 10 times more likely than whites to have their ballots rejected, a ratio that holds nationwide, Kennedy reports in his Rolling Stone article.

Fighting First

Unlike the Democrats in 2000 and 2004, Barack Obama’s legal team and the DNC are not sitting passively for the vote to be stolen out from under the country.

I speak with two sources inside the Obama election effort and neither is totally surprised, adding that legal teams are active in every state to help ensure that voters can actually vote. In fact, several thousand volunteer lawyers will be ready to move into counties and precincts on Election Day or during the counting process if trouble is reported.

While there have been some problems with early voting, my friend Pete in Palm Beach County, Florida voted yesterday and said things went smoothly.

“I waited in line an hour because the place was packed. Being curious, I asked an elections official how things were going. And they noted every early place in (the county) was just like this one: Open at 10AM to long lines and it doesn't stop until after 7 PM.

“Like a lot of people voting, the couple in front of me were wearing Obama T-shirts and the guy behind me had an Alaska hat on but was voting for Obama. Why, I asked him? He said it’s because Palin has brought great shame on the state by her actions, greed, and outright fraudulent behaviour. He predicts that Palin will have a primary fight for sure if she loses with McCain. Why he is voting in Florida? He tells me winters are too damn cold in Alaska so he comes to Florida in September, returning in May. His son runs the business in Juneau during the winter.”

Hopefully, things will run as smoothly straight through Election Day. But the McCain campaign, the Republican National Committee and groups they’re supporting are trying to ensure nothing goes smoothly.