Democrat Tony Knowles, her opponent in the 2006 Alaska gubernatorial race, put together a detailed, 63-page research document — obtained by Politico — cataloging Palin’s strengths and weaknesses. And the Obama campaign, in particular, knows Palin well: A key Obama consultant, Anita Dunn, worked on Knowles’ campaign.
“We’re running against John McCain — the issues raised around his decision and the fact that he clearly bowed under to the right wing of his party and let them exercise veto power over his vice presidential pick,” Dunn said, suggesting the Obama campaign wouldn’t be recycling the 2006 Democratic criticism of Palin.
“Whether it was Sarah Palin or Tim Pawlenty or Mitt Romney or somebody else, fundamentally that wasn’t going to alter the dynamic — which is that John McCain believes we don’t need to change the fundamental economic policies in this country,” Dunn said.
The Democratic opposition research document, which was not obtained from Dunn or from the Obama campaign, is largely a catalog of the day-to-day decisions of a small-town mayor. It contains examples of her sometimes confrontational tenure and colorful details of an ordinary woman who was thrilled to meet Ivana Trump and who began the process of opening a marketing company whose name — Rouge Cou — was supposed to be a French version of “redneck.”
The document, largely a collection of newspaper clippings on local issues with no major revelations about Palin, details her socially conservative views — she opposes abortion even in the case of rape and incest, and supported an amendment to the Alaska Constitution to ban it — and also some of the exceptions to them. At one point, Palin supported mandatory education for teenagers about contraception, something that political insiders in both parties will find ironic in the wake of her 17-year-old daughter Bristol’s pregnancy and upcoming marriage.
Two overriding themes about Palin that emerge from the Democratic oppo research book are similar to the ones that have been heard since McCain announced Palin as his running mate on Friday — that she is too conservative and lacks experience.
Palin also had a confrontational relationship with local media during her six-year tenure as Wasilla mayor.
“Palin is too socially conservative for Libertarian Alaska,” reads one heading from the report. “Palin’s not ready for prime time,” reads another.
Palin, who scored an upset in the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary by defeating Gov. Frank Murkowski, went on to beat Knowles 48 percent to 41 percent that November, despite a Democratic ad campaign that focused on her inexperience. Knowles had served as Alaska's governor from 1994 to 2002; earlier, he was mayor of Anchorage.
Some of the details as stated in the 2006 Democratic research document:
* Palin Is Too Socially Conservative for Libertarian Alaska. Palin is a strong conservative — something she repeated throughout her primary campaign but now seems to try to back off from. She is not only pro-life but is involved with — and even steered tax money toward — organizations that give misleading information on abortion. She called herself a “hard-core fiscal conservative” who wanted government to get to the bare bones. The Anchorage Daily News asked whether her “socially conservative positions square with Alaska's generally libertarian approach to those issues.” Palin also supported a flat tax, an idea even Bob Dole thought was absurd.
* Palin’s Management Style is to Bully and Demand Political Loyalty. Palin’s tenure as mayor of Wasilla was marred by tremendous staff turnover, first when she fired most of the top staff — including the cty’s librarian — because she questioned their loyalty, and then later when staff quit because of her micromanaging style. Wasilla even lost the opportunity to hire a police chief because he said the job seemed too political.
* Palin’s Not Ready for Primetime. Palin argues that she was the mayor of the fastest growing city in Alaska. While that may be true, Wasilla’s population is still 1 percent of the rest of the state of Alaska. The last budget Palin approved, $12.5 million, is 0.2 percent of the $7.3 billion budget Tony Knowles approved.
* Palin Signed Ordinance to Issue $15 Million in General Obligation Bonds and Increase the Sales Tax From 2 to 2.5 percent. In 2001, Palin signed an ordinance authorizing the city to issue general obligation bonds in the principal amount of $14,700,000 to finance the acquisition and construction of park and recreation capital improvements. The ordinance also increased the sales tax from 2 to 2.5 percent and put the issue on the ballot. After it was adopted by voters, Palin signed an ordinance issuing the bonds. In 2002, Palin signed an ordinance putting the higher sales tax into effect. [Ordinance 01-55 (am),12/10/2001; Ordinance 02-14 (sub), 4/8/2002; Ordinance 02-49, 8/12/02]
* Palin Called Herself “Such a Weasel” for Not Having a Firm Stand on the Property Tax Cap.
“Does that mean she’d vote for it? ‘I still have five more weeks to make up my mind, like everybody’s trying to do,’ Palin said. ‘I wish it were not a statewide issue.’ Palin said she has declined requests by Tax Cap Yes to speak in favor of the initiative. Yet, she said, she doesn’t object to her name’s continuing to be listed on the group’s Web site among 10 current or former government officials — half from Mat-Su — in support of the initiative. Palin acknowledged that she was sounding quite the politician. ‘I am so sorry I’m such a weasel,’ she said.” [Anchorage Daily News, 10/8/00]
* Palin Asked City Librarian About Censoring Books, Insisted It Was ‘Rhetorical.’ In 1996, according to the Frontiersman, Wasilla’s library director Mary Ellen Emmons said Palin asked her outright if she could live with censorship of library books. Emmons said, “This is different than a normal book-selection procedure or a book-challenge policy. … She was asking me how I would deal with her saying a book can’t be in the library.” Palin said in response, “Many issues were discussed, both rhetorical and realistic in nature.” [Frontiersman, 12/18/96]
* Wasilla’s Pension Was Only Funded at 73 Percent When Palin Left, as Opposed to Almost Completely When She Became Mayor. In fiscal 2002, Wasilla funded 73 percent of its defined benefit pension plan obligation and had 52 percent unfunded liability as a percentage of its covered payroll. In fiscal 1995, Wasilla funded 97.5 percent of its obligation and had 4.3 percent unfunded liability as a percentage of payroll. [Wasilla Comprehensive Annual Financial Report 2003, page 29; Wasilla Comprehensive Annual Financial Report 1996, page 45]
* Palin Supported Penalties for Using Skateboards on Public or Private Property in Wasilla.
“Beginning Oct. 15 — after the expected opening of the $233,000 Wasilla Skate Park — skaters will be breaking the law if they use their skateboards, in-line skates, bicycles, scooters (or any other recreational, non-motorized wheeled device) on public or private property where signs are posted forbidding their use.”
The Frontiersman added, “In the ordinance approved Monday, the penalty for first-time violators of the ordinance is a written warning and the skate device may be confiscated for 10 calendar days. For a second offense, a $50 fine shall be paid and the skate device may be confiscated for 30 calendar days. A third-time offender will hav to pay a $100 fine and will lose his or her skate device permanently.” [Frontiersman, 9/18/98]
* Palin Went to See Ivana Trump at Costco, Saying Alaska was So Desperate for “Any Semblance of Glamour and Culture.” “Sarah Palin, a commercial fisherman from Wasilla, told her husband on Tuesday she was driving to Anchorage to shop at Costco. Instead, she headed straight for Ivana. And there, at J.C. Penney’s cosmetic department, was Ivana, the former Mrs. Donald Trump, sitting at a table next to a photograph of herself. She wore a light-colored pantsuit and pink fingernail polish. Her blonde hair was coiffed in a bouffant French twist. ‘We want to see Ivana,’ said Palin, who admittedly smells like salmon for a large part of the summer, ‘because we are so desperate in Alaska for any semblance of glamour and culture.’" [Anchorage Daily News, 4/3/96]
* Documents Show While Mayor Palin Had Thank You Notes to Campaign Donors Printed by Her Assistant on City Time and Arranged Campaign Travel from Her Office. “The Voice of the Times, a separate editorial section within the opinion pages of the Daily News, made the original public records request that produced many of the documents that Murkowski’s campaign handed out Thursday, including a stack of telephone records, e-mails — such as a campaign note from her mayor e-mail address to Ruedrich — and invoices from Wasilla City Hall. The documents appear to show, for example, that on one occasion Palin arranged campaign travel from the mayor’s office. On another, her city administrative assistant printed thank-you notes to campaign donors. The administrative assistant, Mary Bixby, said in brief interview with the Daily News in late July that she was directed to perform those tasks while on the clock for the city.” For any mistakes she did make, Palin said, “I apologize.” [Anchorage Daily News, 8/18/06]
* Palin Made a Bet With Her Husband About Whether Murkowski Would Get Into the Race — the Loser Had to Get a Tattoo. “Palin told The Associated Press that she and her husband, Todd, made a bet on whether Murkowski would run. If the governor says he’ll enter the race, Palin has to get the Big Dipper tattooed on her ankle. If Murkowski says no, Todd gets a wedding ring inked on his finger.” [Anchorage Daily News, 5/26/06]
* Palin Obtained a Business License for Marketing and Consulting, Saying that She Wanted To Line Up Her Ducks if She Chose to Pursue It. “Asked about the business registered under her name, Palin said, ‘Rouge Cou, it’s a classy way of saying redneck. It’s a French word, rouge is red, cou is neck. It’s for marketing and consulting, in case I wanted to go that route, I’d have my ducks all lined up and have a business license. I just was granted that business license. … I would like to, with some of the endeavors that I have going on right now, there comes a time when one desires to be paid for them!’” [Anchorage Daily News, 6/8/05]