I try to avoid writing about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. She gets quite enough publicity without my help. But this time I feel obliged to try and sort out the rumors set off by her surprise resignation. The dominant theory is that Governor Palin quit ahead of a federal indictment accusing her of awarding government contracts in exchange for gifts and favors when she was mayor of Wasilla.
The blogosphere is ablaze with allegations of an impending scandal, and even the mainstream media are getting into the act. The clamor is so pervasive that Palin’s lawyer issued a statement warning her “defamers” of possible legal action. It seems to be no more than wild surmise so far, and the Los Angeles Times has published an FBI denial that any federal investigation of the Palins is under way. But that hasn’t silenced the bloggers.
The allegations are not new. Various reports suggested during last year’s presidential election campaign that Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, played footsie with companies involved in construction of Wasilla’s $14.7 million sports complex. And eyebrows were raised after Todd Palin told Fox News that he built a two-story, 3,450-square-foot, four-bedroom, four-bath, wood house himself, with the help of “buddies.” (The house is pictured above.)
Eyebrows were raised even higher when reports surfaced that Sarah Palin had blocked an effort to require the filing of building permits in Wasilla, which meant there was no public record of who her husband’s “buddies” were. The bloggers insist those “buddies” were employees of Spenard Building Supplies, the Alaska building company that Palin chose for the Wasilla sports complex.
I don’t want to be “bad mind” (as they say in Jamaica), but the story of that sports complex smells fishy to me, too. Here’s how “The Brad Blog” sums it up:
Six months before Palin stepped down as mayor in October 2002, the city awarded nearly a half-million-dollar contract to design the biggest project in Wasilla history to Kumin Associates. Blase Burkhart was the Kumin architect on the job — the son of Roy Burkhart, who is frequently described as a “mentor” of Palin and was head of the local Republican Party (his wife, June, who also advised Palin, is the national committeewoman). Asked if the contract was a favor, Roy Burkhart, who contributed to her campaign in the same time frame that his son got the contract, said: “I really don’t know.” Palin then named Blase Burkhart to a seven-member builder-selection committee that picked Howdie Inc., a mostly residential contractor owned at the time by Howard Nugent. Formally awarded the contract a couple of weeks after Palin left office, Nugent has donated $4,000 to Palin campaigns. Two competitors protested the process that led to Nugent’s contract.
A list of subcontractors on the job, obtained by the Voice, includes many with Palin ties. One was Spenard Builders Supply, the state’s leading supplier of wood, floor, roof, and other “pre-engineered components.” In addition to being a sponsor of Todd Palin’s snow-machine team that has earned tens of thousands for the Palin family, Spenard hired Sarah Palin to do a statewide television commercial in 2004. When the Palins began building a new family home off Lake Lucille in 2002 — at the same time that Palin was running for lieutenant governor and in her final months as mayor — Spenard supplied the materials, according to Antoine Bricks, who works in its Wasilla office.
I have no idea who Brad, the blogger is, but his account jibes with other reports on the Internet, and I wouldn’t be surprised if his allegations were true. The Palins have the kind of track record that lends credibility to such charges. You will recall those shopping sprees on campaign funds, and those suspect expense reports, for instance.
Despite all that, the rumors of an impending indictment may turn out to be unfounded. Sarah Palin might simply have other fish to fry – a job with Fox News or some other media outlet, for example. Or she might just be giving herself time to get ready for a presidential run in 2012. We will just have to wait and see.