The idea of welfare fraud goes back to the early-1960s; although the offenders in those stories were typically male or faceless. There were, however, journalistic exposes on what would become known as welfare queens. Readers Digest and Look magazine published sensational stories about mothers abusing the system. These stories, like those that followed into the 1990s, focused on female welfare recipients engaged in "unacceptable" behavior such as having illegitimate children, using AFDC money to buy drugs, or showing little desire to work. These women were understood to be social pariahs, draining society of valuable resources while engaging in immoral behavior. Despite these early examples, stories about able-bodied men collecting welfare continued until the 1970s, at which point women became the main focus of welfare fraud stories.
It’s good to see that Sarah Palin had her priorities straight when she was the mayor of Wasilla:
But musty records culled from the archives of the Wasilla, Alaska, city government reveal that Palin was directly involved in soliciting millions of dollars in earmarks for Wasilla when she was mayor. And she got help from a well-connected Washington lobbyist.
In a monthly status report to the city on March 7, 2000, newly hired "City Lobbyist" Steve Silver describes how the Palin administration had requested $6.6 million in federal earmarks for water and sewer improvements for Wasilla, and another $1 million for police equipment. Mayor Palin reviewed and signed the lobbyist’s report, dated April 5, 2000.
Steve Silver, the Wasilla lobbyist, is a former top staffer for Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, who now is under federal indictment for allegedly failing to disclose thousands of dollars in services he received from a company that helped renovate his Alaska home. He has pleaded not guilty. Under Palin, the city paid Silver about $40,000 a year to lobby on behalf of Wasilla (the contract began years before Stevens was indicted.)
In Silver’s April 2000 memo to Palin, he writes that he had spent the month of February making appropriations requests to Sen. Stevens, a proud distributor of earmarks to his homestate of Alaska. "I am very hopeful that a good funding package will be approved later in the year," Silver writes.
Silver also attaches the five-page letter he sent directly to Senator Stevens and his staff, requesting the federal earmarks. Silver breaks down why Wasilla, "one of the fastest growing communities in Alaska," needs federal help, and says the small town "has tremendous needs which the State of Alaska cannot meet."
Which means that taxes paid by the taxpayers in, say, Indiana and New York and Florida were going to Wasilla, AK. to pay for much needed civic improvements.
I don’t have a problem with that.
But what was the happy town of Wasilla doing with it’s own money? I’m glad you asked:
Hockey is much loved in Wasilla, and Ms. Palin, whose son was a star player, wanted to build an indoor rink, with a track, basketball courts and soccer field. In the late 1990s, the city sought a 145-acre parcel owned by the Nature Conservancy, which wanted to sell the land to buy more environmentally sensitive property elsewhere. City officials negotiated a price of $126,000. Months passed without the city’s securing a signed purchase agreement, according to the city’s attorney, Tom Klinkner of Birch, Horton, Bittner & Cherot.
At the same time, Gary Lundgren, a Fairbanks real-estate investor, was in talks with the Nature Conservancy to buy a larger adjacent property. As discussions between the environmental group and the city dragged on, Mr. Lundgren said, he purchased the entire site for about $1 million.
The city sued Mr. Lundgren and the Nature Conservancy, arguing that Wasilla had had a deal. In 2001, a federal district court judge ruled in Wasilla’s favor. Mr. Lundgren appealed, but the city believed it would prevail, according to Mr. Klinkner.
Ms. Palin marched ahead, making the public case for a sales-tax increase and $14.7 million bond issue to pay for the sports center, which was to feature a running track, basketball courts and a hockey rink. At the time, the city’s annual budget was about $20 million. In a March 2002 referendum, residents approved the mayor’s plan by a 20-vote margin, 306 to 286. The city cleared roads, installed utilities and made preparations to build.
So, while the mayor was asking the federal government to pay for Wasilla’s basic needs, she was using the towns money (in the form of increased taxes) to build a playground for her kids.
She’s the best hockey mom evah.