Today, the Obama Campaign launched "Alaska Mythbusters," a group of Alaskans who have followed Governor Palin’s career and will set the record straight about whether Palin has what it takes to bring the change that’s needed in Washington, DC. Former AK Governor Tony Knowles and Mayor Bob Weinstein of Ketchikan, the city of the "Bridge to Nowhere," headlined a press conference call this morning on Palin’s Alaska Record.
Gov. Knowles started by saying that as a former governor, normally he "was reluctant to critique sitting governor." However, in this situation it is not just a sitting governor, it is a candidate for VP just "one heartbeat from the Presidency."
He then went on to discuss the "serious concerns" he had about her qualifications--the fact that McCain chose her with a "serious investigation going on," —citizens said needed to be one to "clear the air." Said Knowles, "It's more important now that the results should be known to the American people."
Gov. Knowles discussed the history leading up to the entire "Troopergate" scandal, covered as it became public (and even before it was public) on my blog.
He emphasized that two rarely-covered facts about the investigation are that 1) it was a Legislative-initiated investigation which hasn't happened before in the history of the State and 2) it is also a Republican-controlled investigation as the Judiciary Committee has a Republican majority.
Gov. Knowles also pointed out that this was a "very serious charge" which was asking the question: can a governor interfere with the results of this case and by means of a personal vendetta extract further punishment from Officer Wooten?
Gov. Knowles also discussed "character" of the people running for an important office and how he's seen Sarah Palin change from publicly stated comments and open cooperation to now being represented by a state-funded lawyer who has said none of her Administration will cooperate. Not only that, but Frank Bailey, who was put on paid leave to cooperate is also not doing so. The other outrageous aspect to this investigation is that Gov Palin filed an ethics complaint against herself to try and get the whole case referred to the personnel committee which makes it's decisions in executive session (behind closed doors) and wouldn't render an opinion for about four months. (And as Bob Weinstein pointed out later, all members are appointed by the Governor.)
"Bridge(s) to Nowhere"
Bob Weinstein, the Mayor of Ketchikan, discussed the "Growing credibility gap between what Sarah Palin says and what the facts are." His specific task was to explain the truth behind the "Bridge(s) to Nowhere."
The true name for the originally-referenced bridge was the "Gravina Island Access Project" and the purpose was to provice Ketchikan with better access to Gravina Island--partially because the airport was there and the other part was because not much land for us to develop on Ketchikan and it was used up. Gravina has thousands of acres available. It was deemed a necessary project
In 2005, Congress included 450 million in 4 earmarks for the two bridge projects. In late 2005/early 2006 3 of the 4 earmarks were stripped from the budget. However, the State of Alaska received all 450 million dollars!
So, not only did the bridge earmarks get yanked BEFORE SHE WAS EVEN GOVERNOR, the State received EVERY DIME of that 450 million so SHE NEVER SAID "NO" to anything!!!!
Mayor Weinstein pointed out that during her September 2006 campaign for Governor at a stop in Ketchikan, Sarah Palin was asked if she supported the Gravina Island project. She clearly stated her support, to the point of calling the use of the phrase "bridge to nowhere" a "derogatory term" comparable to calling someone from MatSu "Valley Trash." In a separate interview on that same day, she said that we had to "come to defense of Southeast Alaska" and not allow "spinmeisters" to determine our resource development.
In an article from October 2006, the Anchorage Daily News also confirmed her support for both bridges.
The Governor released a Sept. 2007 press release at 5:00 AM East Coast time cancelling the Gravina bridge project...there was no communication with the Congressional delegation, Ketchikan or anyone else involved. She promised to come to Ketchikan to explain but has never done that.
Mayor Weinstein also pointed out that despite Palins claim of fighting "earmarks" she actually loves them. Sarah Palin aggressively pursued earmarks while she was Mayor of Wasilla and since becoming Governor has used the same lobbyists Ketchikan hired to push the Bridge project. As Governor, Palin has requested 750 million in Federal earmarks.
Tony Knowles also pointed out one more interesting bit of information, that the second "Bridge to Nowhere" was the Knik Arm Bridge which would cross from Anchorage to Point MacKenzie...benefitting the Governor's precious Wasilla. That project is far from "dead" and is moving forward.
As Governor Knowles quipped..."she said "thanks" without the "no thanks"".
Bob Weinstein also pointed out that a 48 million earmark was not stripped from the Ketchikan project and the contract was awarded to construct 3.25 mile road. Even when they cancelled the Juneau access road they DID NOT cancel the Gravina road. So now, the Gravina Highway (since it has no bridge attached) really is a "road to nowhere."
The DNC plans on regular "Mythbusting" telecons and I hope they happen often. It will be interesting to see if they actually make an impact.