Dairygate, or Sarah Palin’s Boundary Problem
by Miryam Ehrlich Williamson
To put it charitably, Sarah Palin has what psychotherapists call a boundary problem. She seems unable to differentiate between her interests and those of her family and associates, on the one hand, and the interests of the public on the other. “Dairygate,” the subject of this article, is a case in point.
The folks doing the vetting the McCain campaign forgot to do before naming Palin as the Republican VP nominee – independent journalists, the mainstream media not so much – have already shown us that Palin carried her feud with her sister’s former huband to the extent of firing the official who refused to fire the ex, an Alaska state trooper. We also know that Palin has allowed her husband to use the governor’s office as though it were his own. Those two facts alone would, in a rational world unblinded by John McCain’s POW status, be sufficient to disqualify her from public office, and demonstrate McCain’s hairtrigger judgment problem.
But wait – there’s more. Dairygate, the saga of the Matanuska Maid Creamery, involves millions of dollars of public money – not just from Alaskan taxpayers but from the U.S. Treasury as well. One of the stars of this little drama is Sen. Ted Stevens, Republican from Alaska, a candidate for re-election currently under indictment for corruption. He got into the act by providing earmark funds so a Palin ally could buy dairy equipment from the creamery, an Alaskan icon, which went out of business at the end of 2007.
So much for the former beauty queen turned reformer. The Mat Maid story, which is still unfolding, is as crummy as they get. I’ll give you the bare bones – and at the end a tidbit unreported elsewhere in the Lower 48. You can get all the details your heart desires here, here, and here.
Founded in 1936 as a dairy cooperative, Matanuska Maid was taken over by the state of Alaska in the 1980s when its private owner went bankrupt. The brand was popular in southern Alaska, its logo a local icon. Mat Maid was also important to the local economy – local meaning in and around Wasilla, the town of about 8,000 where Palin had been mayor before she ran for governor – because it bought the milk it processed from dairy farms there.
Last year, due to variety of economic factors, Mat Maid lost a million dollars. In the summer of 2007, the Creamery Board, a subcommittee of Alaska’s Board of Agriculture and Conservation (BAC) used its authority over the state-owned dairy to turn down the failing company’s request for a $600,000 grant to keep it afloat.
Incensed, Palin fired the entire BAC, saying the dairy simply needed proper management. The new BAC, composed of the relatives and friends of Wasila-area dairy farmers, took the powers of the Creamery Board to itself – a confict of interest that would have appointees in most states in jail or at least paying hefty fines. Dairy experience wasn’t required of the new board members. The board resurrected Mat Maid and handed over the $600,000. It raised the price of milk paid to the local dairy farms, in a transfer of wealth from non-farming taxpayers to those who had found favor in Palin’s eyes.
Despite Palin’s efforts, in December Mat Maid’s directors shut it down. The state’s $600,000 grant, the grant the previous board had denied it, went down the drain – or, more likely, into the pockets of Palin’s family and neighbors.
Last month, Mat Maid’s Anchorage facility was sold, to become a heated self-storage facility. The sale price met the minimum bid requirement, $1.5 million. The buyer, according to the Fairbanks News-Miner, is Matt Bobich who, with his wife Linda, owns four other storage facilities. Bobich was the only bidder.
Any bets on whether this was an arms-length transaction? No? Well, you can bet that a lot of folks will be looking for a connection between the Bobiches and the Palin family, or other members of the Board of Agriculture and Conservation. Don’t take any bets, though, on whether the mainstream media will pick up this story. They might get slammed for disrespecting the protege of a well-known ex-POW.
Posted on September 3rd, 2008 by Miryam Ehrlich Williamson
Filed under: Uncategorized