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Palin and Pelosi: Worlds Apart in House-Cleaning Methodology

Has it entirely escaped the notice of our watchdog press that if Sarah Palin wins the vice presidency, she will also, in one graceful swoop, assume what is now Ms. Pelosi’s mantle as the most powerful woman in American government?

This may have gone unnoticed by every liberal newswoman and pundit in the country, but it is the truly scrumptious morsel that has had my own heart pumping at fever pace since the day John McCain made the pick of the century — Sarah Palin.

Sarah Barracuda vs. Imperious Nancy.

Now that’s a match-up made in heaven.

Moose burgers vs. organic tofu.

Hockey mom vs. limousine liberal.

Wal-Mart vs. Armani.

Drill-here-drill-now vs. let-them-eat-cake at the pump.

Palin’s government floor you could eat off vs. corruption and vice in every nook and cranny of Nancy’s House.

Oh, could this possibly be more delicious?

The most interesting polarity between Nancy Pelosi and Sarah Palin has to do with their house-cleaning methodology. Nancy Pelosi’s rallying cry in the 2006 midterm elections was against what she referred to as the “Republican Congress of corruption,” and she famously declared that it was going to take a woman to “clean house.” Sarah Palin ran for the governorship of Alaska the same year on the same rallying cry against the slimy corruption in her own party, and a promise to take the government from the political fat cats and return it to the service of the people.

In 2006, Nancy Pelosi became the first woman speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and the most powerful woman in American government. In that same year, Sarah Palin became the first woman governor of Alaska and its youngest ever.

Pelosi and Palin have both had the same 20 months on the people’s payroll in new positions of responsibility. Both promised to clean house.

But the differences between the actual fruits of their respective labors could not be more disparate.

Let’s have a little peek, shall we?

Within one week of election and the turnover of Congressional majority to Nancy Pelosi’s Democrats, she seemed to go back on her “clean-house” word by picking a fight over who would be her second in command. House Democrats wanted Steny Hoyer, who had a clean record; Nancy wanted John Murtha. This first indication of how she would use her new power caused even Time magazine to pose the question: “Did her support for a man who is notorious for slipping special-interest earmarks into spending bills prove that she didn’t really mean all that talk about cleaning up Congress? In other words, was Nancy Pelosi really up to the job?” Madame Pelosi lost that fight, but it was truly a harbinger of her house-cleaning priorities and the value of her word to the American people.

Palin also campaigned for the governorship of Alaska on promises to rein in corruption in her own Republican Party. By the time she had beaten the incumbent governor Murkowski in the primaries and another former governor in the general election, Palin had already proven that she was a courageous reformer for the people. She had resigned a powerful job with the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission because state law forbade her to speak out against fellow commission members. With Palin’s resignation came her whistle-blowing on two members for financial conflicts of interest and other ethics violations, which resulted in their resignations and state-imposed fines against the violators.

One of Palin’s first actions as governor was reaching across party lines and pushing a major bipartisan ethics bill with real teeth. Mrs. Palin called this just the beginning. In her first year in office, she vetoed $268 million in unnecessary construction projects with her line-item veto.

And then, of course, there was the former governor’s new jet, which had become a powerful symbol to Alaskans of state government corruption. Getting rid of it had been one of Palin’s campaign promises and was one of the first things she took care of when assuming office. She first attempted to auction the jet on eBay, in order to save broker fees and get top dollar for the taxpayers. But when minimum bids were not met, she finally concluded the sale through a broker for $2.1 million, which was returned to the Alaska treasury.

Nancy Pelosi also vowed to pass ethics reform ASAP after taking over as speaker, but it took her more than seven months to pass a bill that has been widely criticized for lacking any teeth.

The watchdog group Citizens Against Government Waste called Ms. Pelosi’s ethics bill an “unethical” ethics bill, and quoted Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) as saying, “What we have before us today is not a landmark accomplishment, but a landmark betrayal. Instead of draining the swamp, this bill gives the alligators new rights.”

The taxpayer watchdogs at Citizens Against Government Waste summarized Pelosi and Reid’s little house-cleaning venture thusly:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) hailed S. 1 as the “the most sweeping ethics and lobbying reforms in generations.” That hyperbolic generalization obscures the mediocre nature of the final bill. Earmark transparency provisions that had passed as part of S. 1 by a vote of 96-2 in January of 2007 were gutted as a result of a secret, backroom conference deal by Majority Leader Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Meanwhile, when it was discovered last month that Charlie Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has failed to report or pay taxes on $75,000 income earned on luxury rental properties in the Dominican Republic, Nancy Pelosi stood firmly behind him. When it was suggested that Mr. Rangel ought to step down from his chairmanship, at least until the substantial ethical lapse could be resolved, Ms. Pelosi balked at the idea.

Going up against one’s own party members doesn’t seem to be something Nancy Pelosi has the guts for.

Governor Sarah Palin, in another money-saving decision, declined the services of the former governor’s personal chef and also the chauffeur. Mrs. Palin’s parents were humble school teachers, who no doubt taught frugality as a virtue and that wasting other people’s money was far worse on the sin scale than wasting one’s own.

Nancy Pelosi, on the other hand, sprang from a powerful and wealthy Democratic political family, married a millionaire, is herself a millionaire, and piggy-backed into her Congressional seat more than 20 years ago on the strength of Democratic machine backing. Perhaps these quirky differences with Sarah Palin’s background explain why, in her first year as the speaker of the people’s house, Nancy Pelosi indulged her own lavish tastes to the point of straining taxpayer patience. Palin frugality vs. Pelosi luxury.

According to this summary of Pelosi indulgences, compiled last December by The Hill, Imperious Nancy spent $16,000 on flowers for her offices. She spent 63% more in her inaugural year than her Republican predecessor. In her first year, Nancy Pelosi spent more than $3 million, compared to $1.8 million on operating expense incurred by Hastert.

While Sarah Palin was declining the extravagances of a personal chef and chauffeur at Alaskan taxpayer expense, Nancy Pelosi required a staff of 51, compared to her predecessor in the same job who employed only 35. Hastert billed $1,700 in travel expense his last year, while Pelosi spent $60,000, which did not include any “congressional delegation” trips to Europe and the Middle East.

When Governor Palin was negotiating with the big three oil companies on revenues and the windfall tax increase she succeeded in finalizing, Todd Palin resigned from his job with BP to avoid any conflict of interest. Governor Palin’s resolve will result this year in a $1,200 per taxpayer rebate, issued on the back of this legislation.

Ms. Pelosi, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to notice her own conflicts of interest, much less think them a problem. During her first months in office, while she was hammering for that raise in the minimum wage, she was fighting fiercely for an exemption for American Samoa, which happened to be the home of Star-Kist (the No. 1 employer), whose parent company Dole was headquartered in her home district and was a major contributor to her campaigns. She now shills shamelessly for huge monetary incentives for wind farms, while owning substantial stock interest in same.

One of the more interesting aspects of this election will be which form of “house-cleaning” is preferred by the people, who pay the bills, and which of these two women will emerge as the most powerful woman in American government.

Frugality vs. extravagance. Wal-Mart vs. Armani. Benjamin Franklin vs. King George.

You pick.