Skip to comments.A History of Palin, Part 3: Oil and Gas Conservation Commission 2003 – 2004
Posted on 11/19/2010 8:27:18 PM PST by Anamnesis
Nicole Coulter, previously known as Recovering Democrat, published an excellent piece discussing Governor Palin's qualifications versus that of the previous crop of US Presidents:
I think it's worth delving into some detail what Palin has accomplished in her early years. One of the stark differences between Palin and Obama is that her early record is open for all the world the see. Contrastingly, Obama's history is obfuscated by the sealing of his records. The second part of this history is about Palin on the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
This is R. Mansour's take on Palin during this crucial juncture of Palin's history:
Everything in her life is based on incremental steps. She was term-limited out of her job as mayor, and she decided to run for lieutenant governor. She lost, but came in a close second despite being outspent four to one and running against well-known state officials.
This is where her biography approaches what I consider the first of the two great tests of her character.
She caught the eye of the new governor, Frank Murkowski, and he appointed her to a plum position as the ethics chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC). It was her first big six-figure job. Once again, the good old boys expected her to be the Goldie Hawn character in "Protocol," and once again, they were gravely mistaken. We all know the story of how she blew the whistle on Randy Ruedrich, the chair of the Alaska GOP and a fellow member of the AOGCC. Part of her job as the ethics chair was to verify that no wrongdoing was taking place. As one friend, David Murrow, explained:
Once a year all political appointees in Alaska are required to sign a conflict of interest statement. Part of the statement requires commissioners to report any violation by their colleagues. Sarah felt she had no choice but to tell the truth about Reudrich's abuses, even though she would be turning in a fellow Republican. In the days following her allegations many who follow Alaska politics (myself included) thought Sarah had committed political suicide. But her courageous stand against corruption endeared her to the citizens of Alaska.
------------------- For a more in-depth look, this is from Baseball Crank's essay written during the 2008 elections:
C. The Oil and Gas Commission
Following her loss in the Lieutenant Governor's race, Palin was out of a job, and as promising but unemployed politicians often do, she accepted an appointment from the powers that controlled her state party. In February 2003, she was tabbed by Murkowski to chair the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission, a regulatory body with jurisdiction over the state's most important industries:
The commission and its 21 staff members usually labor in obscurity unless they are responding to a serious oil-well accident or violation. Founded in territorial days and modeled after commissions in other oil states, the AOGCC is a regulatory board charged with protecting public resources when oil or gas is developed. The AOGCC has three basic functions: to ensure that producing oil and gas fields achieve maximum recovery; to ensure that wells are safely constructed and operated; and to protect groundwater when oil and gas wells pass through aquifers or when drilling wastes are legally disposed underground.
The job was a plum patronage position, paying $118,000 a year, doubling her salary as Mayor and for the first time making her the family's chief breadwinner. The Anchorage Daily News has a lengthy and extensive description of the events that followed, as Palin uncovered significant ethical improprieties at the AOGCC, focusing on Alaska State GOP Chairman Randy Ruedrich, who the ADN noted had "played a major role in Gov. Frank Murkowski's election":
[S]he focused on ethical lapses by fellow Commissioner Randy Ruedrich, who was also (and unfortunately still is) the statewide GOP chairman. Ruedrich was refusing to complete and file disclosure reports that would have detailed his personal dealings with energy-related companies. When Ruedrich ignored her complaints, she went to the state attorney-general, Gregg Renkes. When Renkes ignored her (and threatened her with prosecution if she became a public whistle-blower), she went to the GOP governor who'd appointed her, Frank Murkowski. Murkowski was then, of course, one of the troika of Grand Poobahs of Alaskan GOP politics, along with Congressman Don Young and Senator Ted Stevens.
When Murkowski ignored her too, however, Palin resigned.
Think about that again. Palin wasn't independently wealthy, although her family is now well off; her husband made good money as a commercial fisherman and working in the oil fields, but with four children to raise, their status as a two-income family was undoubtedly financially important to them. Yet she was walking away from a plum job with a six-figure salary that had given her a more than 60% pay raise from her job as Mayor. Palin herself had worked only in politics since leaving her sportscasting job some 16 years earlier, and by picking up a crusade against the state's most powerful political figures, she stood an extremely good chance of burying her promising political future for good. But she was willing to walk away from all of that at age 40 to do the right thing. If you can picture Barack Obama doing that, you have a very vivid imagination.
As the ADN article explains, her investigation involved a fair amount of sleuthing by Palin, including a review of Ruedrich's computer files after he quit the AOGCC. There were a variety of ethical issues involved, including matters tied up in a number of criminal investigations, multiple conflicts of interest, failure to file required disclosure forms, and use of AOGCC time, facilities and resources to conduct Ruedrich's partisan activities with the GOP. While some of these issues may seem minor in isolation, they obviously added up. Palin's resignation in January 2004 eventually freed her to go public:
[W]hen Ruedrich settled state ethics charges June 22 by paying a record $12,000 civil fine and admitting wrongdoing, Palin said she finally felt some measure of vindication for bucking Ruedrich and members of her party. Over the months leading up to the settlement, Ruedrich had been saying the accusations were overblown, while other Republicans, including Murkowski, complained Ruedrich was unfairly targeted, primarily by the news media.
Originally muzzled by the confidentiality provisions of the state ethics law and unable to explain publicly what she had tried to do about Ruedrich, Palin found herself attacked from both sides: Ruedrich's opponents accused her of complicity with him, and his allies said she was providing ammunition for Democrats. She quit the commission in frustration on Jan. 16, months before the state's secret investigation and its formal charges became public.
And her dogged determination made her further enemies but resulted in ultimate vindication:
She wrote a famous op-ed for the state's largest newspaper ...And ...continu[ed] to direct public attention to the scandal.
She was helped along by criminal investigations that have since ended up with indictments and convictions of several public officials. Renkes was forced to resign as attorney-general. Reudrich ended up agreeing to pay a substantial fine for his ethics violations - not just the noncompliance with the disclosure forms, but substantive violations based on too-close ties with and favors from VECO, the drilling contractor that's been at the center of most of the Alaskan ethics scandals - and to quit the Commission.
Palin was unsparing even on the man who had appointed her:
After slamming Murkowski for "hiring his own counsel, paid for by the state, to investigate his long-time friend, confidant, and campaign manager [Renkes]," Sarah concluded by writing, "Despite those in Juneau who think otherwise, it's healthy for democracy to ask questions. And I'll bet there are hockey moms and housewives all across this great state who agree."
The result was a thorough burning of her bridges with the state party:
By that time, Palin was an outcast. The state Republican Party in May had just reconfirmed its support for Ruedrich, after party leaders assured the central committee that charges against him had been overblown by the media. Even Murkowski had voiced support for Ruedrich, calling him a "survivor."
One of Palin's Mat-Su mentors, district Republican chief Roy Burkhart of Willow, still thinks she went too far. When Palin came to him for advice, he said in a recent interview, he said she should pass along the evidence, which appeared serious enough.
"The impression I got was she didn't want to do it," said Burkhart. "But the evidence was there, and it was going to be worse if she didn't do it."
And she wasn't afraid to cross party lines to take a stand on ethics:
In 2005, she continued to take on the Republican establishment by joining Eric Croft, a Democrat, in lodging an ethics complaint against Renkes, who was not only attorney general but also a long-time adviser and campaign manager for Murkowski. The governor reprimanded Renkes and said the case was closed. It wasn't. Renkes resigned a few weeks later, and Palin was again hailed as a hero.
---------- To summarize US4Palin writes:
About the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC)
Mission: “To protect the public interest in exploration and development of oil and gas resources, ensuring conservation practices, and increasing ultimate recovery, while protecting health, safety, the environment, and property rights” (AOGCC, n.d., ¶1).
“AOGCC functions include maximizing oil and gas recovery, minimizing waste, approving oil pool development rules, and maintaining state production records” (Palin, 2009, p. 94)
“The commission also lends a hand in protecting the environment from contamination during drilling and also ensures environmental compliance in production, metering, and well abandonment activities, so federal agencies like the EPA as well as private interests and environmental groups have key interests in the commission’s activities” (Palin, 2009, p. 94).
Summary of Sarah Palin’s Accomplishments as Committee Chair
In her position as Chairman of the AOGCC, Sarah Palin worked diligently to correct a conflict of interest that existed with Randy Reudrich, the Commission’s Petroleum Engineer. Reudrich was the State Republican Party Chairman, and was a member of the Republican National Committee. Reudrich simultaneously was a general manager Doyon Drilling and the key fund-raiser for the GOP. He solicited party dollars from the oil and gas companies the Commission was supposed to be regulating (Palin, 2009, pp. 94-95).
Ethics Issues with Randy Reudrich
(Palin, 2009, pp. 96-98).
Personal Consequences Suffered
(Palin, 2009, p. 98).
Kaylene Johnson’s Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned the Political Establishment Upside Down, Chapter 6 is devoted entirely to Gov. Palin’s chairmanship of the AOGCC.
Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. (n.d.) State of Alaska Department of Administration. Retrieved June 28, 2010 from: http://doa.alaska.gov/ogc/
Johnson, K. (2008). Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned the Political Establishment Upside Down. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House).
Palin, S. L. H. (2009). Going Rogue: An American Life. (New York: Harper). pp. 94-99.
Everyone should notice the lack of comments from the “Anybody but Sarah” crowd on this thread.
Ping to self
I hope she runs. Either her or DeMint. If we get the likes of Huckabee or Romney, we are screwed.
Beautiful threads, thanks for posting.
These need to be re-posted ON WEDNESDAY, AT THE TOP, THE DAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING!
Doubtless there will be MANY heated debates/arguments around the Thanksgiving tables this year.
I have lived in the Wasilla area since 1994 and have followed Sarah Palins path and all of this is spot on.
I wish she was still the governor.
Too many social “pork” projects floating around. And they do nothing.
Thanks for the ping!