When Sarah Palin was elected governor of Alaska she wasted no time in appointing her cronies or having them go for interviews to fill important positions in the state's offices.
Jon Schmidt, Kristan Cole, Brad Cole and others were appointed to various boards and commissions.
Debbie Richter, a good friend and business associate, applied for the job of director of the Permanent Fund Dividend Division. She's now called Debbie Bitney.
Debbie's husband, John Bitney, was a key aide in Sarah Palin's 2006 gubernatorial campaign. When she took office, she gave Mr. Bitney a job as her legislative director, and a few months later stood beside him at a news conference and praised his work. Seven weeks later she fired Mr. Bitney for what her spokeswoman described as "poor job performance." What really happened? Governor Palin got a call from another old friend, Scott Richter, informing her that his wife, Debbie Richter, and Mr. Bitney were having an affair. Scott and Sarah's husband Todd are great friends.
I found some articles on Bloomberg and Juneau Empire.
Shortly after she was elected governor, Palin's office signed off on hiring Deborah Richter -- who attended college for a year then worked in bookkeeping and finance jobs -- as director of a division that distributes dividends to Alaskans from the state's oil-wealth savings account. Richter, who said she's known Palin for 13 years, was Palin's gubernatorial campaign treasurer and ran her inaugural committee.
The Richters and Palins also shared an investment: 30 acres of rural property near a lake in Petersville, Alaska, worth $47,300, according to Matanuska-Susitna Borough data.
"It sounds like a patronage deal for someone who ran your campaign; that's pretty normal,'' said Bill Buzenberg, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity in Washington. "What's not normal is that they have business dealings together.''
No evidence has emerged to suggest that laws were broken in the appointment.
"She was qualified,'' said Pat Galvin, commissioner of the Department of Revenue and Richter's boss. Galvin said he also interviewed other people for the job and that Richter has done well. He said Palin's office approved his selection of Richter.
Palin's gubernatorial spokesman, William McAllister, said the decision to hire Richter was Galvin's. "I have no knowledge of land ownership or college degrees,'' he said.
What would anybody expect them to say? "The governor told us to hire her friend and she turned out not to be terribly qualified but she was very nice, so we hired her." Yeah, right.
Alaska Permanent Fund dividend checks barely made it out on time last year after a computer technician accidentally wiped out a data file containing hundreds of thousands of dividend applications.
After desperately trying to recover the file with help from Microsoft Corp., the Permanent Fund Dividend Division of the Department of Administration went to the backup tapes.
Then things got worse.
"The problem was, there was some file that linked information wasn't backed up," said Debbie Richter, division director. "That was an essential piece of the puzzle."
Eventually, the reports were released - minus the explanation of what had happened at the Permanent Fund Division.
Juneau freelance reporter Bob Tkacz was one of the reporters asking for the transition reports. He was dismayed at the response from a governor who had campaigned on openness.
"No other governor in my experience has ever kept those reports confidential, and certainly never censored them in the way the Palin administration did," he said.
Recovering from the Permanent Fund Division data loss involved calling in temporary workers to reconstruct lost data. Applications from the increasing number of applications filed online were able to be recovered; but paper applications had to be reconstructed by hand.
A snippet from the Bloomberg article appeared on TPM Muckraker and in one of the comments I found quotes from the Juneau Empire article and these questions:
Excuse me, but "manually reconstructing" thousands of several hundred dollar payments from a state royalty fund? That sounds like it could be open to abuse.
Who was the "contractor" hired to help sort it out? How much were they paid?
Why did the Governor refuse to allow disclosure of the mandated state audit report on the computer failure?
If it sounds fishy, it probably is. Sarah Palin specializes in fishy.
Link to FBI
(Hat tip to JMGUIZZ1)