Ignoring evidence to the contrary, NY Times' Brooks claims Palin made "mortal enem[y]" of Stevens

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI & MORGAN WEILAND

David Brooks wrote that Gov. Sarah Palin "made mortal enemies of the two people [Sen. John] McCain has always held up as the carriers of the pork-barrel disease: [Rep. Don] Young [R-AK] and [Sen. Ted] Stevens [R-AK]." Brooks' characterization of Palin and Stevens as "mortal enemies" is undermined by substantial evidence, including a joint Stevens-Palin press conference in July in which Stevens said he has "never known of any animosity between" them and Palin said she had "great respect" for Stevens, as well as Palin's previous service as co-director of a 527 organization bearing Stevens' name.

In his September 2 New York Times column, David Brooks wrote that Gov. Sarah Palin is "a woman who risked her career taking on the corrupt Republican establishment in her own state, who twice defeated the oil companies, who made mortal enemies of the two people [Sen. John] McCain has always held up as the carriers of the pork-barrel disease: [Rep. Don] Young [R-AK] and [Sen. Ted] Stevens [R-AK]." Brooks' characterization of Palin and Stevens as "mortal enemies" is undermined by substantial evidence. For example, in a July joint press conference, while Stevens acknowledged "comments made [by Palin] about my earmarks" and "the [federal corruption] investigation," Stevens said he has "never known of any animosity between" them; similarly, Palin said she had "great respect" for Stevens. Further, Palin previously served as co-director of a 527 organization bearing Stevens' name; Palin ran advertisements during her 2006 gubernatorial campaign that featured Stevens endorsing her; while Palin was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, she reportedly hired a lobbying firm to secure earmarks for the town, and the account was handled by Stevens' former chief of staff; Stevens has endorsed her 2008 vice-presidential bid; and Stevens' campaign website contains several pictures of Palin with Stevens.

Brooks wrote:

When McCain met Sarah Palin last February, he was meeting the rarest of creatures, an American politician who sees the world as he does. Like McCain, Palin does not seem to have an explicit governing philosophy. Her background is socially conservative, but she has not pushed that as governor of Alaska. She seems to find it easier to work with liberal Democrats than the mandarins in her own party.

Instead, she seems to get up in the morning to root out corruption. McCain was meeting a woman who risked her career taking on the corrupt Republican establishment in her own state, who twice defeated the oil companies, who made mortal enemies of the two people McCain has always held up as the carriers of the pork-barrel disease: Young and Stevens.

However, Brooks ignored several facts about the relationship between Palin and Stevens.

"Great respect" for Stevens

During a July 2 joint press conference about Stevens' energy plan, Palin and Stevens were asked about a possible "rift between" them. Stevens said during his response: "I've never known of any animosity between the two of us at all. We are each free to make comments about what the other does and every once in a while she'll say I'm stupid and that, that, prob -- she may be right." Palin responded, "I've never said that." She went on to say, "I have great respect for the senator and he needs to be heard across America, his voice, his experience, his passion needs to be heard across America so that Alaska can contribute more. I again have great respect for him and I agree there's a big difference between reality and perception regarding our relationship." Stevens added: "If you object to this first edition of the Sarah-Ted Show, I hope it'll continue."

From the July 2 press conference:

JASON MOORE (KTUU reporter): I'd just like to hear from each of you how you feel about the other. I think there is a sort of perceived rift or perception in Alaska there's a rift between you two. The governor's made some statements against some of your earmarks. She said at the time your house was searched that you needed to tell Alaskans more about what's behind that. You haven't exactly had glowing endorsements of AGIA [Alaska Gasline Inducement Act]. What do you two think about each other, and describe your relationships.

PALIN: You can go first.

STEVENS: Well, you know, I -- I -- I don't really object to the comments made about my earmarks. I think that, you know, they -- they're part of a period of need. I'm not sure -- with the money that's coming into the state, I don't think we're going to get many earmarks in the future. We -- we developed our earmarks in a period of need and found a way to bring these federal agencies in here through the Denali Commission and other things like that. I don't object to people objecting to that. I think the investigation is another matter, and I do think that she -- the governor had every right to say what she did. I didn't take any umbrage about it --

PALIN: Thank you.

STEVENS: -- I never talked to her about it at all. I -- I wish I had her -- her freedom to speak about it, but I don't. You know, it's -- it's there, it's continuing, and that's all there is to it. But as far as getting along, hell, I don't know if you know it, when [former Gov.] Frank Murkowski was first elected, this lady and I and the mayor of Cordova, Margie Johnson, traveled around the state for two weeks. We've known each other for a long time and worked together for a long time. I've never known of any animosity between the two of us at all. We're each free to make comments about what the other does, and every once in a while she'll say I'm stupid and that, that, prob -- she may be right.

PALIN: I've never said that.

STEVENS: No, I just --

PALIN: And I -- I have great respect for the senator, and he needs to be heard across America. His voice, his experience, his passion needs to be heard across America so that Alaska can contribute more, so that we can be producers, so that we can help lead the rest of the U.S. I, again, have great respect for him, and I agree there's a big difference between reality and perception regarding our relationship.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor --

STEVENS: If you object to this first edition of the Sarah-Ted Show, I hope it'll continue.

Co-director of 527 bearing Stevens' name

The Washington Post's Matthew Mosk reported on September 1 that Palin served as one of three directors of a 527 organization, named Ted Stevens Excellence in Public Service, Inc., "until June 2005, when her name was replaced on state filings." From Mosk's post on the washingtonpost.com blog The Trail:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin began building clout in her state's political circles in part by serving as a director of an independent political group organized by the now embattled Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens.

Palin's name is listed on 2003 incorporation papers of the "Ted Stevens Excellence in Public Service, Inc.," a 527 group that could raise unlimited funds from corporate donors. The group was designed to serve as a political boot camp for Republican women in the state.

The stated purpose of the 527, according to its 8871 form, filed with the Internal Revenue Service and signed March 19, 2004, is "[t]o increase the number of Republican women in elected offices and in appointed governmental and political positions, including advisory and regulatory commissions through training and education."

2006 gubernatorial endorsement

During her 2006 gubernatorial campaign, Palin ran an ad featuring Stevens endorsing her candidacy. In the ad, Stevens said that Palin represents "a new vision, new energy. ... When you go to vote, don't go to vote alone. And you'll help Sarah become the next governor of Alaska, which we all want to see." From the ad:

STEVENS: We have a state that needs new management.

(Text on screen: Senator Stevens Speaks About New Leadership)

STEVENS: These two people represent a new generation. And they represent a new vision, new energy. They represent the kind of people who ought to come along and take our places.

And that needs a new agenda for all of us to get behind. Think of this: When you go to vote, don't go to vote alone. And you'll help Sarah become the next governor of Alaska, which we all want to see.

ANNOUNCER: Frugally paid for by Palin/ [Lt. Gov candidate Sean] Parnell, new energy for Alaska. 245 W. 5th, 99501.

Mosk reported that "[s]hortly after Palin was announced as McCain's vice presidential pick, the ad was removed from her gubernatorial campaign web site. It remains available on YouTube." Indeed, a Google cache of Palin's website "as it appeared on Aug 29, 2008 16:47:35 GMT" shows the text, "Senator Stevens Speaks About New Leadership" and a disabled link to the Stevens commercial under the headline "View Sarah's Commercials!" From the Google cache:

The Anchorage Daily News reported in an October 31, 2006, article that "Stevens OK'd the new ad," referring to the ad featuring Stevens' endorsement of Palin, and quoted a Palin spokesperson asserting that the ad is "a big deal." From the article:

Palin spokesman Curtis Smith said Stevens OK'd the new ad, which shows the influential senator talking about Palin and running mate Sean Parnell at what the Palin camp said was a recent GOP shindig in Fairbanks.

"We have a state that needs new management. These two people represent a new generation," Stevens says in the commercial.

He's wearing a vest made of fur and what looks like an ivory bolo tie while standing next to Palin and Parnell. Soaring music plays in the background. The [Tony] Knowles [D] camp criticized the look and sound of the spot as fuzzy.

"Think of this -- when you go to vote, don't go to vote alone, and you'll help Sarah become the next governor of Alaska, which we all want to see," Stevens concludes in the commercial.

Smith said he isn't aware of any plans for Rep. Don Young or Sen. Murkowski to appear in Palin ads, though he called Stevens' endorsement an asset.

"It's a big deal to have one of the most respected political figures in Alaska history to stand up and say, 'Hey, this is the one.' "

Earmarks for Wasilla and former Stevens chief of staff

Washington Post staff writer Paul Kane reported on September 2 that "Palin employed a lobbying firm to secure almost $27 million in federal earmarks for a town [Wasilla, Alaska] of 6,700 residents while she was its mayor, according to an analysis by an independent government watchdog group" and that Wasilla's account was handled by former Stevens chief of staff Steven W. Silver, whom Kane described as a member of Stevens' "inner circle." From the Post article:

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin employed a lobbying firm to secure almost $27 million in federal earmarks for a town of 6,700 residents while she was its mayor, according to an analysis by an independent government watchdog group.

[...]

As mayor of Wasilla, however, Palin oversaw the hiring of Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh, an Anchorage-based law firm with close ties to Alaska's most senior Republicans: Rep. Don Young and Sen. Ted Stevens, who was indicted in July on charges of accepting illegal gifts. The Wasilla account was handled by the former chief of staff to Stevens, Steven W. Silver, who is a partner in the firm.

Palin was elected mayor of Wasilla in 1996 on a campaign theme of "a time for change." According to a review of congressional spending by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan watchdog group in Washington, Wasilla did not receive any federal earmarks in the first few years of Palin's tenure.

Senate records show that Silver's firm began working for Palin in early 2000, just as federal money began flowing.

In fiscal 2000, Wasilla received a $1 million earmark, tucked into a transportation appropriations bill, for a rail and bus project in the town. And in the winter of 2000, Palin appeared before congressional appropriations committees to seek earmarks, according to a report in the Anchorage Daily News.

Palin and the Wasilla City Council increased Silver's fee from $24,000 to $36,000 a year by 2001, Senate records show.

[...]

The Palin earmarks came when Stevens was chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Young was a senior member of the House transportation committee.

In hiring Silver, Wasilla found someone who was a member of each lawmaker's inner circle. Silver has donated at least $11,400 to Stevens's political committees and $10,000 to Young's reelection committee in the past decade, according to Federal Election Commission records.

2008 vice-presidential endorsement

After Palin was announced as Sen. John McCain's presumptive running mate, on August 29, Stevens released a statement with the title, "Stevens Strongly Endorses Governor Palin." The release quoted Stevens stating: "I have known and worked with Sarah for over a decade - from her service as Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, in her role as president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors, and most recently as our Governor. She is attentive to her job and family, brings people together, and is able to make tough decisions." The press release:

Stevens Strongly Endorses Governor Palin as Vice Presidential Candidate

Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) today applauded Senator John McCain's selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential running mate on the Republican ticket.

Senator Stevens said: "It's a great day for the nation and Alaskans. Governor Palin has proven herself as a bright, energetic leader for our State and will bring the same energy to the Vice Presidency. She will serve our country with distinction - the first Alaskan and first woman on the Republican ticket. I share in the pride of all Alaskans.

"I have known and worked with Sarah for over a decade - from her service as Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, in her role as president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors, and most recently as our Governor. She is attentive to her job and family, brings people together, and is able to make tough decisions.

"Governor Palin's knowledge of energy issues will be critical as she and Senator McCain begin their path toward the White House. It is now clear: there is only one presidential ticket, McCain-Palin, that can and will deliver a comprehensive energy plan - one that will include development of Alaska's resources and reducing our dependence on foreign oil."

Upon learning of Senator McCain's selection, Senator Stevens offered his congratulations and support to Governor Palin and her family.

2008 Stevens re-election website

Stevens' re-election website features several pictures of Stevens with Palin. For example, Stevens' photo gallery features a July 3 photo of "Senator Stevens with Governor Palin at the opening of the Perseverance Trail." From his website, accessed on September 2 at 11 a.m. ET:

Another photo features Stevens "cutting the ribbon on the Perseverance Trail" next to Palin. From his website, accessed on September 2 at 11 a.m. ET:

Media Matters for America previously noted that on the August 29 edition of PBS' NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, Brooks asserted of Palin: "She's evangelical, but she's pretty progressive on gay and lesbian issues." Brooks offered no evidence for his assertion, which is undermined by her reported position on benefits for same-sex couples.

Network/Outlet
The New York Times
Person
David Brooks, Sarah Palin
Stories/Interests
2008 Elections
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