Sarah Palin Resigns: Is She Fleeing Scandal?
At a news conference on the lawn of her Wasilla home yesterday morning, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin announced that she'll give up her post in the next few weeks. A day later, Palin’s abrupt and confounding move has left political analysts and the media scrambling for an explanation.
Many observers expected Palin to say that she was not seeking re-election – a prediction driven by speculation that the Governor is preparing for a Presidential bid in 2012.
But Palin's shocking announcement seems to belie plans for a Presidential run. As Josh Marshall points out at TPM, "Generally, when you run for election to a high office it's understood that you'll stick around to do the job."
Some observers have nevertheless toyed with the idea that Palin is quitting to free up time to campaign. Conservartive columnist Bill Kristol wrote in the Weekly Standard blog:
If Palin wants to run in 2012, why not do exactly what she announced today? It's an enormous gamble - but it could be a shrewd one.
After all, she's freeing herself from the duties of the governorship. Now she can do her book, give speeches, travel the country and the world, campaign for others, meet people, get more educated on the issues - and without being criticized for neglecting her duties in Alaska.
But many Presidential hopefuls finish up their time in office. And Palin's rambling statement did little to lay the groundwork for a future campaign: the Alaska Governor vaguely stated that she would do more good "outside government" and issued some Nixonian grumblings about the press, according to a reporter at the scene to whom Palin allegedly said: "You are naive if you don't see a full-court press on the national level, picking apart a good point guard."
(Palin did, however, also offer some suspiciously campaigny-sounding rhetoric: "I'm not wired to operate under the same old politics as usual.")
Many analysts also point out that Palin’s resignation highlights her main weakness in a potential Presidential run — that many conservative elites see her as unprepared to serve for National Office.
John Weaver, a former strategist for the McCain campaign said “If this is her launching pad for 2012, it's a curious move. Policy is politics, and she has no real accomplishments as governor" according to the AP.
With little information coming from the Palin camp following the announcement, observers speculate that Palin’s bizarre decision and rushed press conference point to a brewing scandal.
(If it turns out Palin is fleeing office in the face of some bombshell revelation scandalous enough to kill any chances she might have in 2012, we would be averaging the loss of one GOP Presidential hopeful per week over the past month.)
Even in the absence of a Mark Sanford-style drama, Palin may be resigning to escape ongoing ethics inquires. The state of Alaska has spent nearly $300,000 investigating ethics complaints against the Governor. Palin has said that contesting the complaints has cost her family $500,000.
The widely publicized inquiry into Palin’s firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan after he refused to can the state trooper involved in a divorce with Palin’s sister is the most prominent of over a dozen investigations.
Others include allegations that Palin used the governor's office for personal gain by receiving improper gifts, and that she used state time and resources for partisan political purposes.
Max Blumenthal, writing for the Daily Beast, points to Todd and Sarah Palin’s suspicious ties to Spenard Building Supplies (SBS), an Alaskan contractor. Blumenthal writes that the Feds may be launching an investigation into whether Palin and her husband helped bring lucrative contracts to the company in exchange for gifts:
Though Todd Palin told Fox News he built his Lake Lucille home with the help of a few "buddies," according to Barrett’s report, public records revealed that SBS supplied the materials for the house. While serving as mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin blocked an initiative that would have required the public filing of building permits—thus momentarily preventing the revelation of such suspicious information.
Just months before Palin left city hall to campaign for governor, she awarded a contract to SBS to help build the $13 million Wasilla Sports Complex. The most expensive building project in Wasilla history, the complex cost the city an addition $1.3 million in legal fees and threw it into severe long-term debt. For SBS, however, the bloated and bungled project was a cash cow.
Whatever facts may emerge, Palin’s latest bewildering move has ensured that she will command the public spotlight for a while to come.
Here’s a video and a full transcript of the press conference.