Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Butterflies are free to lie

Posted by metaphorical on 14 September 2008

It’s been two weeks since the Washington Post reported that Sarah Palin was a founding director of one of Ted Stevens’ 527 groups, and as far as I can tell, the story hasn’t been pushed forward much at all. Where are all the investigative journalists who spent a decade rooting around the barren stumps of Whitewater? Where are the Democratic Party’s Swiftboaters and other attack dogs?

Back in late July, “Sen. Ted Stevens, the nation’s longest-serving Republican senator and a major figure in Alaska politics since before statehood, was indicted Tuesday on seven felony counts of concealing more than a quarter of a million dollars in house renovations and gifts from a powerful oil contractor that lobbied him for government aid,” to quote the lead of an AP story at the time.

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. She served as one of three directors until June 2005, when her name was replaced on state filings.

527 groups are named for a provision of the IRS code under which “members of Congress can raise unlimited soft money from individuals, corporations and unions,” as SourceWatch puts it. “Under federal election law, members of Congress may raise only limited amounts of ‘hard money’ for their own campaign committees or ‘leadership PACs’ which aid other candidates. They may accept no contributions of more than $1,000 per election from an individual and $5,000 per election from a political action committee (PAC).”

527s are of course exactly the sort of thing the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms tried to reform out of existence. It’s more than a little politics-makes-strange-bedfellows that his running mate got her start on the long road to the vice presidency by cofounding one. For a Senator now under indictment.

Palin’s relationship with Alaska’s senior senator may be one of the more complicated aspects of her new position as Sen. John McCain’s running mate; Stevens was indicted in July 2008 on seven counts of corruption.

It’s just one more thing for which Palin needs to put on her best Janus makeup. According to AlaskaReport:

Palin, an anti-corruption crusader in Alaska, had called on Stevens to be open about the issues behind the investigation. But she also held a joint news conference with him in July, before he was indicted, to make clear she had not abandoned him politically.

On July 10, State Senator John Cowdery was the latest on a string of indictments in Alaska . Palin immediately called for his resignation. Twenty days later, Stevens was indicted on seven felony counts related to accepting illegal gifts. When asked if Stevens should resign, Plain replied that it, “would be premature at this point.” Alaskans received no explanation of why Stevens would be different from any other indicted elected official in Alaska.

Palin’s career has been short, but it already has a signature: a level of abuse of whatever levers of power she has newly wrapped her hand around that is remarkable even by Republican standards. Whether it’s hiring friends and firing enemies, gorging at the hog trough of pork barrel politics as usual (while wearing the shoulder sash of reformism), or simultaneously condemning Stevens and supporting him, she, like her new mentor John McCain, would do the putative flip-floppers of 2004 proud.

If Obama and the Democratic strategists can pin the Republican ticket’s wings to a sign labeled “hypocrisy” like a butterfly being mounted, they will win. There’s no dearth of raw material. But then, by 2004, there was no dearth of evidence of Bush’s incompetence, even before Katrina. What’s needed is for the media to take it all seriously, as seriously as they took the false claim that Al Gore claimed to invent the Internet, as seriously as they took Bush’s absurd talk of compassionate conservatism, as seriously as they took the Dean scream that never was, as seriously as they took the ridiculous charge that Kerry didn’t earn his war medals. For a change, this time they would even have the truth on their side.

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