Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Andree McLeod Finally Opens Up And Explains Why She Is So Obsessed With Sarah Palin's Ethics; It Dates Back To A Falafel Fight
For the first time, chronic Palin critic Andree McLeod has opened up and explained in greater detail why she has become so obsessed with the ethics of Governor Sarah Palin. But while I still don't consider her obsession justified, her explanation does mitigate much of the personal hostility I had developed against her.
She bares her soul (and thankfully, nothing more) in an Anchorage Daily News article entitled "Palin critics defend their actions" published late on July 6th, 2009. Combined with research from some other sources, it appears we have a case of a person who became radicalized by what she perceived as unequal treatment by government, and so she became excessively sensitive to the appearance of government malfeasance.
Some background published by Blogian is useful. Although Andree McLeod came from Lebanon, she is actually Armenian by origin. McLeod and her family emigrated from Beirut to the United States in 1963, and moved from Long Island to Alaska thirty years ago. She was apolitical until 1995, when she decided to earn money for grad school by operating a falafel cart in Anchorage. However, the city disapproved her plans, declaring fried chickpeas “potentially hazardous”, even though they allowed competing outdoor hot dog vendors to operate. She appealed the decision unsuccessfully, which led to an unsuccessful mayoral campaign in 1997. Afterwards, she ran twice for the House District 24 seat unsuccessfully as a Non-Partisan in 2002 and as a Republican in 2004, with an unsuccessful Anchorage school board run sandwiched within. [Ed. Note: I cannot recall why the city "ixnayed" McLeod's falafel cart, but other cities making such a distinction do so because they only allow outdoor food vendors to keep already-cooked food hot, and do not allow actual cooking of food. Hot dogs can be prepared in advance and kept hot - falafel cannot be prepared the same way.]
Blogian also provides some insight as to how the political relationship between Andree McLeod and Sarah Palin evolved. McLeod first met Palin after her failed House bid in 2002. They became friends, and after Palin was appointed to the Alaska Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC), she frequently complained to McLeod about Randy Ruedrich’s penchant for doing party work from his office. McLeod got tired of Sarah’s ceaseless complaints and told her to do something about it already.
However, McLeod told ADN that her failure to get a patronage job with the Palin Administration had nothing to do with either the souring of the relationship, or the ethics complaints subsequently filed. But McLeod apparently began to get tips about possible questionable actions. For instance, she heard from fellow Republicans that members of Palin's administration continued to pressure party members to oust Ruedrich, and they were communicating using state e-mail, telephones and other resources. So she filed an information request for all the e-mails from two Palin administration officials "to see whether there were partisan political activities being conducted using state time and resources." When she began to get records back in 2008, she didn't discover incriminating evidence about political activity, but found something else that led her to dig more.
"It's like going fishing and getting bycatch. I was looking for salmon, I found a 400-pound halibut", explained McLeod. That was the discovery that members of the Palin administration were conducting state business using private Yahoo accounts, not state e-mail accounts. McLeod was concerned that by using Yahoo, e-mail messages about public policy would be beyond the reach of a public-records request, since they would not exist on state computers.
McLeod is now suing the state to force the administration to abandon the use of outside e-mail accounts. The case is pending, as is a second, in which she's suing to get full disclosure of e-mails about state business that were sent or received by Palin's husband, Todd.
But why all the freaking ethics complaints? "I think that the only mechanisms available to citizens to discover how their government is running is through the [Alaska] public records act," McLeod said last weekend in between interviews from different national media outlets. "And the only mechanisms available to citizens to address their government for any wrongdoings is the Alaska ethics act. And I exercise my rights under both of those acts to figure out what Sarah Palin and her administration was up to and to redress the wrongdoings of Sarah Palin and her administration's conduct."
O.K., so now I understand how Andree McLeod got radicalized and why she takes this more seriously than most. But to request boxes and boxes of public records and spend spare time poring through them? I could understand it if she was a professional getting paid to do this research, but to do it as a hobby? That's inexplicable.
What ADN did not do is to ask her about her reaction to the fact that three of her four ethics complaints have been dismissed. In various comments posted to related ADN stories, McLeod has frequently dismissed this as irrelevant, claiming that the political integrity of the Personnel Board is compromised by the fact that the Governor appoints its members, although by charter, it is an independent body. She's also dismissed the integrity of the Department of Law. By these remarks, she makes it look like she's more expert on ethics than a big chunk of the state government. That conveys the appearance of megalomania on her part, and is the primary reason why so many "Palinbots" as well as others are so pissed at her.
But now, instead of being angry with her, I'm actually more saddened that Andree McLeod has allowed this obsession to take over her life. It will not bring any meaningful change to the way state goverment operates, and in fact to reach her standards, state goverment would virtually have to put itself in a straitjacket. I want public officials to have sufficient wiggle room to do their jobs effectively, and not be handcuffed by a draconian ethics code. Andree McLeod is in danger of generating a backlash against the concept of ethics itself.
And quite frankly, I don't give a shit what type of coat the Governor wears, because it has no impact upon the size of my Permanent Fund Dividend.