A trove of Sarah Palin’s e-mails shows the former Alaska governor swiftly stepping in to direct taxpayer money toward a failing state-owned enterprise after its own leadership decided to close the doors.
The activist approach taken by Palin in the matter of the Matanuska Maid creamery contrasts with the rhetoric she has used since leaving office to criticize President Obama and Democrats for using government spending to help private industry, including the economic stimulus package and assistance to the financial and auto industries.
The saga of Palin’s intervention in the creamery begins in the summer of 2007, during her first year as governor, when the company’s board ordered the business shut down after it had racked up $1.5 million in losses in the previous few years. Farmers were given less than three weeks notice that they would have to sell milk elsewhere.
Palin secured $600,000 in immediate funding to keep the creamery running. She was unable to legally replace the creamery board, so instead replaced the entire Board of Agriculture and Conservation, which then sacked the creamery board members. In the end, her efforts were futile and the creamery was shut down about six months later.
The new e-mails show Palin aggressively stepping in to save the creamery with taxpayer funds, writing that the plan to close it is “bull” and “we’re going to step in [and] help.”
“Hell no will MatMaid close in a couple of weeks. Not on our watch will this happen,” she wrote in an e-mail on June 8. She tells aides that she’s committed to pushing taxpayer funds to support the failing business and asks them to spread the word about “my committment to sensible plan -vs- going with the flow of the [board]’s ridiculous decision to devastate farmers in two weeks.”
Palin has since gone on the attack against Obama and Congress for taxpayer bailouts. In an interview with the conservative magazine Human Events in 2008, Palin said she opposed Obama’s plan to use bailout funds for the auto industry until he gave more information on “how it will lead to success in this industry.”
“Picking winners and losers in Washington, D.C., is a dangerous thing to do when you’re talking about a system that supposed to be based on free enterprise,” Palin said to the magazine. “When you talk about rewarding for work ethic and good management decisions and then consequences are the results of the opposite of that.”
Other gubernatorial initiatives show Palin as something less than a doctrinaire free-market conservative. She championed a major tax increase on oil companies and used the money to increase the direct rebate that each resident of the state receives from the government. Critics have also attacked her for attempting to secure earmarks as mayor of the town of Wasilla.
In the past, Palin and her supporters have pointed to her success cutting costs as governor and said that the additional time that the creamery was kept open gave dairy farmers time to secure private buyers for their milk.
On Friday, a representative of Palin’s political action committee said that the e-mails “show a very engaged Governor Sarah Palin being the CEO of her state” and “detail a governor hard at work.”
In her autobiography “Going Rogue,” Palin credits herself with ensuring that the dairy closed in a responsible way, saying it was with “the result that a once-limited, failing enterprise is now out from under the government’s thumb.”
Large portions of the exchanges on the dairy were redacted by the Alaska government, which released the e-mails Friday to fulfill a Freedom of Information Act request by media organizations. Most of the redactions cited an exemption in open-records laws for the deliberative process that the governor and aides use to make a decision.
One exchange shows Palin’s concern about the Teamsters Union, which represented some of the workers at the dairy. A representative of the union e-mailed Palin’s staff to say that the union was upset about not getting a meeting with the governor.
“It had better be explained to her that yesterday is the FIRST I heard of the mtg request,” Palin responded to her staff. “I will call her if I don’t hear that she’s been notified asap.”