The Trail

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Governor's Plane Wasn't Sold on Ebay

One of the most compelling anecdotes in Sarah Palin's repertoire is that she auctioned off the Alaska governor's jet on eBay after taking office -- a swift move made by a reformer hoping to clean up the excesses of her predecessor.

In fact, the jet did not sell on eBay. It was sold to a businessman from Valdez named Larry Reynolds, who paid $2.1 million for the plane -- shy of the $2.7 million purchase price -- according to news reports at the time. Reynolds contributed to Palin's campaign in 2006.

What happened? It appears that, as she promised during her bid for governor, Palin did try to sell the plane on eBay, but there was only one serious bid, in December of 2006, and it fell through. The Westwind II was sold about eight months later, achieving her goal of ridding the state of a luxury item.

But that hasn't stopped Palin, or John McCain, from implying -- or asserting outright -- that Palin sold the jet on the Internet.

"You know what I enjoyed the most? She took the luxury jet that was acquired by her predecessor, and sold it on eBay -- and made a profit!" McCain declared in Wisconsin at a campaign stop Friday.

The video tribute to Palin that aired at the Republican National Convention on Thursday night made the same assertion.

"She signed sweeping ethics reform legislation, auctioned the governor's jet on eBay," the narrator said, citing it in a list of Palin's achievements.

Palin herself, in her convention speech accepting the nomination for vice president, gave a version closer to the truth but still left the impression the jet was sold in a public transaction. "That luxury jet was over the top. I put it on eBay," Palin said.

"Governor Palin did put the plane on eBay, and she sold it to save the taxpayers money and get rid of that symbol of past corruption. Ultimately, the point is that taxpayers have been well-served by Governor Palin's willingness to fight wasteful spending and root out corruption -- no matter what nit-picking critics might say," Tucker Bounds, McCain's spokesman, said Friday.

It remains unclear just who brokered the sale of the jet. According to a contemporaneous account in the New York Times, Dan Spencer, director of administrative services for Alaska's Public Safety Department, said it was the Republican speaker of the Alaska House, John L. Harris. Other local accounts suggested that an aviation brokerage firm took the lead.

About one-third of Alaskans live in towns and communities with no access to roads, making a plane for the governor's use a key asset. However, many Alaskans resented former governor Frank Murkowski's purchase of the jet, which was largely unusable on many of the state's rural landing strips, some of which have gravel runways.

When Palin sold the jet, that left her with access to a 26-year-old turboprop aircraft that was due for an overhaul. Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan said he ordered the airplane rehabilitated and offered to buy or lease a new plane in the interim. Ultimately, the governor waited until the older plane was overhauled.

-- Anne E. Kornblut, James V. Grimaldi and Alice Crites


Palin on 'Oprah'? Not During the Campaign

Is the McCain campaign playing politics -- with Oprah Winfrey?

A Drudge report item surfaced on Friday about Winfrey's programming plans, saying members of her staff are divided over having Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, as a guest.

The rumor seemed designed to force Winfrey's hand and call her out as a partisan. Winfrey -- whose largely female audience is a prime target for both parties -- took heat during the Democratic primary season for backing Sen. Barack Obama over Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Winfrey swiftly knocked the report down, calling it "categorically untrue."

"There has been absolutely no discussion about having Sarah Palin on my show," she said in a statement. "At the beginning of this presidential campaign, when I decided that I was going to take my first public stance in support of a candidate, I made the

decision not to use my show as a platform for any of the

candidates. I agree that Sarah Palin would be a fantastic interview, and I would love to have her on after the campaign is over."

-- Anne E. Kornblut

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