Before she was Sarah Palin, she was the governor of Alaska. The story of her rise in Alaska politics is not one that conforms with her media image, so it is rarely told. But it is an extraordinary tale; one woman against the vaunted Murkowski machine, who used all of her considerable political skills to defeat the state’s thoroughly corrupt Republican Party.
Joshua Green of The Atlantic Monthly tells this story well. Some excerpts:
Murkowski’s willingness to cater to the oil producers, and his secrecy, caused tensions in his administration that burst into view when he announced his deal, in October 2005. It was a breathtaking giveaway that ceded control of the pipeline to the oil companies and retained only a small stake for Alaskans; established a 30-year regime of low taxes impossible to revoke; indemnified companies against any damages from accidents; and exempted everything from open-records laws. In exchange, the state got an increase in the oil-production tax. (Palin later released a private memo in which Murkowski’s top economic adviser complains that he has “gone completely overboard” and is treating “Alaska as a banana republic in order to secure the gas line.”) The deal conceded so much that Murkowski’s natural-resources commissioner, Tom Irwin, publicly questioned its legality—and was summarily fired. Six of Irwin’s aides quit in protest, and the “Magnificent Seven” became a cause célèbre. In the end, the legislature rejected the gas-line deal. But, in a twist, it agreed to the oil tax—which had been intended as an inducement to pass the rest of the package.
Palin came out hard on the other side of the philosophical divide from Murkowski—and made it personal. She announced she would challenge him for governor. She assailed the “secret gas line deal” and the “multinational oil companies that make mind-boggling profits off resources owned by all Alaskans.” She put an “all-Alaska” pipeline at the centre of her campaign. And she declared her intention to hire Tom Irwin to negotiate the deal. “She’s what I call ‘alley-cat smart,'” Tony Knowles, the former Democratic governor, told me. “It’s not about ideology. She knows how to pick her way down the political route that she feels will be the most beneficial to what she wants to do.”
In the Republican primary, Palin crushed Murkowski, delivering one of the worst defeats ever suffered by an incumbent governor anywhere. She went on to have little trouble dispatching Knowles, an oil-friendly Democrat. “A lot of people on the East Coast, when they think of Sarah Palin now,” Cliff Groh, a former state tax lobbyist, told me, “some five-letter words come to mind: Scary. Crazy. Angry. Maybe some others. But the five-letter word that people in Alaska associated with her name was clean.”
You can read the whole thing here.