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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin Whistleblower

A lot will be made of Ms. Palin's experience, or in some cases, lack thereof. She has had a fascinating and remarkable record considering her relatively thin time in politics. For istance, here is how Wikipedia described her some of her tenure as mayor of Wasilla. (You know that town that the Obama campaign mocked as only of 9000)

In January 1997, Palin fired the Wasilla police chief and library director. In response, a group of 60 residents calling themselves Concerned Citizens for Wasilla discussed attempting a recall campaign against Palin, but then decided against it.[10] The fired
police chief later sued Palin on the grounds that he was fired because he supported the campaign of Palin's opponent, but his suit was eventually dismissed when the judge ruled that Palin had the right under state law to fire city employees, even for political reasons.[11] Palin followed through on her campaign promises to reduce her own salary, and to reduce property taxes by 40%.[

So, while the politics may have been on a relatively small scale, it certainly didn't lack in excitement and intrigue. Yet, within all of her experience, the thing that most impresses me is when she turned into a whistleblower.

The term whistle blower has taken on a simplistic and rather tangential tone, and it doesn't do any justice to explain just exactly what someone needs to do and what they have to endure in order follow through in exposing corruption.

For instance, we recently learned that Mark Felt was the infamous "deep throat" during the Watergate scandal. Why did Felt make all of his accusations anonymously? It's because had he gone public it would have meant the end of his career. No one within the political system he exposed would have dared to hire him. He was the FBI's number two and even he didn't have the courage to blow the whistle publicly.

I have, in my time exposing corruption in health care,academina, and roofing, have come across many whistleblowers. Many of them have been targeted and had their lives ruined. Kevin Kuritzky attempted to expose the corruption at Grady Hospital, and his medical school, Emory University, expelled him from medical school 41 days prior to graduation. Dennis Lennox attempted to expose Central Michigan University's corrupt hiring of Gary Peters, who simultaneously held a lucrative chairmanship while he ran for U.S. Congress 400 miles away. He was nearly expelled and reprimanded, while the administration pursued Lennox punitively for the better part of a full school year. Dr. Blake Moore exposed a serial killer nurse at his hospital and the administration along with much of the state's, South Carolina, pursued him viciously. He was ultimately accused of child abuse and had his three foster children taken from him. Gerard Beloin attempted to expose a corrupt deal between a roofing company and a school board, and his life was threatened and for the last four years he has battled criminal charges against him. Diana Vice attempted to expose another corrupt deal between a school board and a roofing company and for the last year she has received threatening phone calls, and one has been traced back to the company in question.

This is the sort of fate that awaits any whistleblower. Corruptors rarely go down without a fight. Anyone that attempts to expose the corruption is often met with vicious retribution. The courage that it takes to expose corruption is beyond measure. It puts the individual outside the establishment. The establishment then pushes back and often the whistle blower finds themself on their own.

That's exactly what Sarah Palin did several years ago when she served on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Palin gained much of her prominence as a whistle-blower. After she was appointed by Governor Murkowski to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, she started bucking the Republican Party leadership over ethics lapses. She blew the whistle on state GOP Chairman Randy Ruedrich when he was a fellow oil and gas commissioner. In 2003, he was forced to resign his regulatory post and pay a record $12,000 fine. She and a Democratic state lawmaker filed an ethics complaint against the state attorney general, Gregg Renkes, who resigned under fire.

"The Randy Ruedrich thing was a huge deal. I think that's when her popularity really started to increase," says Ivan Moore, an Anchorage-based pollster who generally works for Democrats.

Although she campaigned for Murkowski in 2002, she became his consistent critic after he was elected. She was outspoken about the financial deal he negotiated with the three major oil producers for a $20 billion natural-gas pipeline. She and others derided the deal - never ratified by the legislature - as a giveaway to the oil industry.

Palin has paid a price for her outspokenness. Mr. Ruedrich, still party chairman, seldom talks to her, and the state party gave her no money during the general election.

Her whistleblowing was condensed to a few simple paragraphs and unfortunately, I don't believe that most of the stories that talk about give the kind of context it deserves. By taking on Ruedrich and then Attorney General Greg Renkes, she not only took on the political establishment of her state but her party. When she took on this task, she put her entire relatively new political career on the line. The political class has the ability to crush any politican's career. Furthermore, the corruptors often do much more than that. Corruptors often go after whistleblowers personally and attempt to make their entire lives a living hell. That was the risk that Palin took when she dared to take on party power players in a state where corruption is simply the way to do business.

Yet, she did and she exposed the sort of corruption that became simply the way to do business in Alaska. By doing so, she shook up the entire power structure in Alaska and put an end to business as usual. The kind of courage she displayed in doing so can only be understood if ever you are in the position of whistle blower, or if like me, you have the privilege of having a whistle blower tell their story to you.


Low Blow Monroe said...

You can't rely on Wikipedia for facts. That case about firing the police chief was't dismissed, in fact she is still under investigation.

mike volpe said...

Not only was it dismissed, but it is perfectly within the mayor's right to fire a political appointee. Not only that, but it was her campaign promise to clean house. This is a manufactured issue.