Empire editorial: Tough work begins for new governor

Posted: Sunday, February 04, 2007

For Gov. Sarah Palin, the tough part is just beginning.

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Even before she began running for governor, she stood up against leaders of her own party and spoke out against corruption. Again on election night, she pledged transparency in government. And on the third day of the legislative session, she announced her "Ethics White Paper," a report by former U.S. Attorney Wev Shea and former House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz calling for major changes in state ethics requirements.

Many are refreshed by Palin's idealism and her willingness to take on the status quo. And many are hopeful that her talk about cleaner government will materialize into something more than sweet campaign promises. But now it's time to play the real political game and push ethics reform through.

A coach can draw up the best game plans, but if she can't get the players to carry the plan out, she has no chance of winning. And in Palin's case, the players are not all on her team or even headed for the same goals.

The governor will, no doubt, face bullying, coercion and attempts to buy her off in the game of political favors. It will be no easy task to resist the cynicism, cronyism and sense of entitlement that too often come with public office.

The governor's own ethics reform bill largely focuses on changes just within the executive branch. Some legislators would rather she not meddle with reforms in the House or Senate - not that these people are willing to keep their noses out of the executive branch. But then again these are some of the same people who aren't really interested in changing the rules that would prevent conflicts of interest or abuses of political power.

Palin was propelled into political office by voters who wanted to believe in government again. That means the governor needs to lead the charge in ethics reform - not only in her own branch, but also in the Alaska Legislature.

Now is the time that Alaskans will see what Palin is really made of. Will she be willing to face up to those who want none of her brand of idealism? Will she give way to the grinding and monumental pressure of lawmakers who don't want change?

Maybe it's naive to think someone will follow through on campaign promises. But many Alaskans would like to see Palin as one who breaks the mold, one who actually changes Alaska's pathetic reputation on corruption, and one who, four years down the road, is as committed to clean government as she was the day she came into office.

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