Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 19, 2008

ABOUT THAT PAY CUT.... As part of the drive to create a charming, folksy narrative around Sarah Palin, the McCain campaign has come up with a variety of claims. She opposed the Bridge to Nowhere! She vetoed congressional earmarks! She sold a gubernatorial jet on eBay for a profit! She even cut her own salary!

One by one, those claims have fallen apart rather spectacularly. She supported the infamous bridge, she's sought and received hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks, and the jet sale was a bit of a debacle and lost the state money.

And then there's the pay cut. "As mayor I took a voluntary pay cut, which didn't thrill my husband; and then as governor I cut the personal chef position from the budget, and that didn't thrill my hungry kids," Palin told an audience last week, to laughter and applause.

Is that true? Well, the chef line is misleading -- she actually reassigned the chef when Palin decided to live mostly in Wasilla instead of Juneau, and the chef ended up working for the state legislature. Cut from the budget? Not really.

But what about the "voluntary pay cut"? Well, when Palin took office in 1996, she made $64,200 as Wasilla's mayor. The next year, that dropped to $61,200. In 1998, however, the salary rose to $68,000. After another modest dip in 1999, Palin enjoyed a $68,000 annual salary for her final three years in office. If one makes $64,200, and then ends up making $68,000, it's a little tough to characterize it as a "voluntary pay cut." The McCain campaign has an affinity for redefining words to suit its purposes, but this is a tough sell.

Greg Sargent did some great digging on this story, and fleshes out what happened.

As best as we can determine, the cuts were engineered by Palin herself through some sort of executive mechanism, and the raises were City Council-mandated hikes.

What's the upshot? Well, Palin's claim that she "took a pay cut" as mayor is true in a narrow sense. She came in and took a pay cut that she engineered herself.

But in a broader sense, the claim is an oversimplification that borders on misleading. The bottom line is that whatever her intentions, over the course of her mayoralty Palin's pay went up thousands of dollars and stayed higher for years, money which she presumably kept. (If any proof emerges that she donated it to charity or channeled it back into city coffers in some other way, we'll happily update.)

There may be some exculpatory details yet to emerge, but at this point, it sounds like yet another example added to the very long list of Palin claims that don't stand up well to scrutiny.

Steve Benen 4:05 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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And she seems to have been paid a huge amount for such a small city.

Posted by: Tigershark on September 19, 2008 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, since when does the mayor of a town of 9,000 get a full-time salary? Here in New Jersey, it's universal for towns under 25,000 or so, and common for much larger towns, that the mayor gets a dollar a year.

Posted by: arthur on September 19, 2008 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

In Tomah, Wisconsin -- a city roughly the size of Wasilla -- the mayor is paid $12,000 a year. I suspect Palin's salary as mayor isn't something Republicans should want to publicize.

Posted by: Northern Pike on September 19, 2008 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder what the previous mayor was paid.

Posted by: hcw on September 19, 2008 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

You obviously are biased against Sarah Palin. I am going to report you to the Dittohead Police. Better watch out, they'll be really really mad at you. Uh, huh.

Posted by: CT on September 19, 2008 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

Not a lot of money though.

No idea was 68k means in Wasilla. I'm in San Francisco and you can't really raise a family on that here.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on September 19, 2008 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to see more info on the "dips" in pay. What mechanisms? How were the pay increases mandated? Were they COLA or merit-based? Didn't she have to hire a City Administrator to assist her? Something previous mayors never seemed to need. How much was that person's salary? If she did hire an administrator doesn't that technically mean that as mayor she actually cost the town more? When she said a cut in pay, I was thinking at least 10%. She took less than a 5% cut! And more than made up for it with her $50K office make-over. Apparently, she also had the town by her an SUV. Was the town also on the hook for gas and maintenance? It doesn't sound to me like the townfolk got much of deal in Sister Sarah. There's more here and someone should keep digging.

Why can't these people just tell the plain, unvarnished truth? Why all these half-truths and distortions?

Posted by: Lori on September 19, 2008 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

This seems to be Palin's strength. Say something folksy and mavericky and reformy that she did that has some sliver of truthiness in it surrounded by a heaping helping of fake, phony, falseness. "I said No Thanks to the Bridge" (except I supported it until it became the national scandal of pork spending then I became publicly against it but still took the money for Alaska)

With Palin, you have to read the fine print.

Posted by: ckelly on September 19, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Palin is starting to remind me of a would-be stand-up comic.

Her speech is a series of one-liners that are very entertaining to a certain group of people, but as she repeats them over and over again they sound less funny and more just down-right mean or insane.

The problem is that she has to continue delivering the same lines, because there isn't anything else to back it up with. That is the anatomy of the comic routine. And her jokes are starting to fall flat, one-by-one. When the hook emerge and drag her off stage?

Posted by: tomj on September 19, 2008 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

I think at about the same time she was "engineering" a pay cut she was also persuading the council to hire an administrator to do all the day-to-day detail work she didn't care to do herself. One of her colleagues on the council before and after she became mayor says that she spent $50,000 in city money to redecorate her office. I'm sure its true that the mayors of comparable cities in the lower 48 make much less but they don't have the oil companies and the federal government paying the frieght.

Posted by: Jack on September 19, 2008 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

She can lie all she wants.

But when she starts letting her creationist drivel into the debate, watch out.

It's a lie that the earth is only ~6,000 years old.

It's a lie that fossil fuels aren't really "that" old.

Those type of lies make my blood boil.

She's obfuscating.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on September 19, 2008 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

I'd watch myself if I were you, Steve. When old what's-his-name goes face down in his oatmeal she'll be the Prez and she seems to have a monomania about getting even.

I doubt that they allow blogging in Gitmo.

Posted by: Dennis - SGMM on September 19, 2008 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

tomj: That is the anatomy of the comic routine.

Palin-McCain: The Aristocrats!

Posted by: Dennis - SGMM on September 19, 2008 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Next somebody needs to explain to me why a mayor or governor who manages to save a few thousand bucks is somehow qualified for national office. Big freaking deal. "I took a pay cut. I fired the chef." Yeah, and I started washing and reusing my gallon-sized Ziploc bags to save money. Where's my Congressional Medal of Honor?

Are people really so simple that they're swayed by this stupid bullshit?

Posted by: Dylan on September 19, 2008 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Also, didn't she purchase a big old SUV MayorMobile when she was mayor? I bet that more than offset her "pay cut." And as governor, I wonder if charging the state for travel for her little gaggle of rugrats canceled out her mighty reassignment of the chef.

Posted by: Dylan on September 19, 2008 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK


Posted by: Orwell on September 19, 2008 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

I really think that Palin will cost McCain the election (hooray!). She is someone that everyone can relate to; and not necessarily in a good way, either. Serial liar, vindictive, incompetent. She just keeps on undermining any chance McCain has of winning enough "non-base" voters to eke out a victory.
Really, $68,000 a year as mayor of a town of 7-9000? And then having to hire a manager on top of that? Two words - overpaid incompetent.
Of course that sums up the Republican party, too.

Posted by: Doug on September 19, 2008 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

This argument doesn't make sense.

When I started my current job, I made 20% less than I had in my previous job. Now, I make about 20% more than I did in that previous job (after several years of raises, and several promotions).

I still say that I took a pay cut to take this job.

Posted by: SamChevre on September 19, 2008 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if the nominal pay cut she took at the beginning of her term had anything to do with the town having to hire a city administrator to essentially do her job.

Posted by: scottap on September 19, 2008 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Well, she's really good at bald faced lying, cheating and deception.. She's perfect for the presidency!

Posted by: The Galloping Trollop on September 19, 2008 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

That does seem high for a mayor of a town that size, but I don't really see what the problem is as far as the pay changes. She cut her own pay. The council raised it, but had she taken just a 2%/year COLA increase from her original salary, $68k was low by 2002. This seems kind of stupid to even talk about...

Posted by: daveadams on September 19, 2008 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Ever get the feeling nobody's listening to this stuff? Those of us who know she's lying were probably going to vote Democratic anyway, and her supporters would believe her if she said that she shit out gold bricks...

Posted by: dr sardonicus on September 19, 2008 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

No idea was 68k means in Wasilla. I'm in San Francisco and you can't really raise a family on that here. -- Saam Barrager, @16:25

Among other things, Wasilla has 2% sales tax, while y'all's tax is through the roof. Makes a diff right there. I well remember that it made a difference when our tax (Virginia) went from 4 to 4.5%...

Posted by: exlibra on September 19, 2008 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Also, Alaska has no state or local income tax, and Alaskans also get an individual welfare check for $3000 plus every year for basically just living in Alaska (yay socialism!). Plus Palin's husband works (when he's not obstructing state business) so the total family income was well above $68,000. And I'm willing to hazard a guess that real estate values are just a teensy bit higher in the Bay Area than they are in Wasilla, Alaska.

Posted by: Stefan on September 19, 2008 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

Lori wrote:
Why can't these people just tell the plain, unvarnished truth? Why all these half-truths and distortions?

Aw, c'mon! If the Republicans told the truth, no one would vote for them.

Posted by: josef on September 19, 2008 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

So... she actually did voluntarily cut her pay, like she said. Not sure that's a story, guys...

Posted by: NewHorizons on September 19, 2008 at 8:30 PM | PERMALINK

Add in the per diems when she at home, plus the free SUV (I'm sure the city paid the gas), and now what do you get? More bullshit.

Posted by: Bebimbob on September 19, 2008 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

Not a lot of money though.

No idea was 68k means in Wasilla. I'm in San Francisco and you can't really raise a family on that here.

-Agreed. Same thing with Manhattan. We aren't talking about a lot of money here, and we're hashing over a few grand. I think there are better issues to judge Palin over, such as all her perchant for book burning and the her reactionary view on women's issues, which is nothing short of mind boggling.

Posted by: Mick on September 19, 2008 at 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

I'd be curious to find out if that second year dip was in relationship to the new Chevrolet Suburban she purchased on the city's dime to shuttle the fam around in? Get the scoop!

Posted by: TBone on September 20, 2008 at 1:56 AM | PERMALINK

Ever see her transcript? Chaos is her method:

"Palin, the governor of Alaska, was born in Idaho. Her family moved when she was only a few months old to Alaska, where she was raised.

She began college at Hawaii Pacific University, a private, nonsectarian school in Honolulu. She attended only as a freshman during the fall of 1982, school spokeswoman Crystale Lopez said.
Then known as Sarah Louise Heath, she was in the business administration program as a full-time student, Lopez said.

"We're trying to track down someone who knew her," Lopez added.

From Hawaii Pacific, Palin transferred to North Idaho College, a two-year school in Coeur d'Alene, about 30 miles east of Spokane. She attended the college as a general studies major for two semesters, in spring 1983 and fall 1983, spokeswoman Stacy Hudson said.

"We were not able to track down club affiliations or anything," Hudson said.

The school identified one of her professors but he did not remember her, Hudson said.

Prior to her selection by McCain, the North Idaho College Alumni Association notified Palin in June she would be the recipient of its 2008-2009 Distinguished Alumni of the Year Award.

From North Idaho College, Palin transferred 70 miles south to the University of Idaho, the state's flagship institution. She majored in journalism with an emphasis in broadcast news. She attended Idaho, whose mascot is the Vandals, from fall 1984 to spring 1985.

She then returned to Alaska to attend Matanuska-Susitna College in Palmer in fall 1985.

Then she returned to Idaho, for spring 1986, fall 1986 and spring 1987, when she graduated. Despite her journalism degree, she does not appear to have worked for the college newspaper or campus television station, school officials said. She worked briefly as a sportscaster for KTUU in Anchorage after she graduated college."

As a counselor would say, she majored in ME.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on September 20, 2008 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

The issue isn't how much money her salary is or isn't in Alaska -- the issue is the pattern of lying: she is a pathological liar. That's the point here. Don't lose sight of it. Given that she could, clearly, should Palin/McCain win the ticket, be our President one day, that matters.

Posted by: delagar on September 20, 2008 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK



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