Politics & Policy

Sarah the Slasher

An Olympic strategy.

The Left’s nastiness toward Gov. Sarah Palin is quite appalling, even given the usual ugly character assassination we have come to expect from liberals. That has been especially true regarding Palin’s family, particularly her choice to bring to term a baby with Down Syndrome.

Within that, there is a particularly nasty tack. The Left, including its mainstream-news sources, are alleging that Palin, as governor of Alaska, “slashed” funding for Special Olympics — as well as a myriad of other notable charitable causes — from the Alaska budget. The strategy is to frame Palin as a hypocrite, one who chose life for her own son, and claims to support government funding for special-needs programs, but as a state official worked to do just the opposite.

#ad#As far as we can tell, the Special Olympics claim was first made in the September 6 edition of the bible of the Left, the New York Times, where Jennifer Steinhauer and Amy Harmon reported, “According to state documents, she cut the state’s Special Olympics budget in half.” Then came an Associated Press piece on September 9, in which a writer in the Atlanta bureau wrote, “During her few years as governor, she vetoed $275,000 for Alaska’s Special Olympics — half the amount being sought.” From there, the story became more twisted and mangled.

On September 11, liberal columnist Margaret Carlson used the allegation in a Bloomberg News column: “Palin, who said parents of special-needs children would have an advocate in the White House, cut funds for the Special Olympics.” (Carlson repeated the claim in a September 18 piece.)

On September 12, Linton Weeks of National Public Radio uncritically quoted a Palin critic, Sue Libenson, making a more distorted claim:

In that same speech, Palin told Americans she will be an advocate for children with special needs. “In fact,” Libenson says, “just this summer she cut funding for Alaska’s Special Olympics.” Libenson cites the governor’s line-item veto trimming the Special Olympics budget by $275,000.

The myth shows no sign of dying. To the contrary, it is gaining momentum, as shown in the reporting of Keith Olbermann on MSNBC on September 17. Olbermann noted Palin’s claim that she increased funding for special-needs kids. But there’s a “problem,” reported Olbermann: “As the chief executive up north, she vetoed $275,000, crossed it out, of the state funding for the Special Olympics. She cut the Special Olympics budget in half and is campaigning as an advocate for special-needs kids. That’s pretty sick.”

Added Olbermann: “Well, at least we do know which charity I should donate that hundred bucks to every time she lies about her record: the Alaska Special Olympics.” According to the Huffington Post, Olbermann has thus far donated $3,700 to the Alaska Special Olympics, presumably for Palin’s alleged cascade of lies.

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Also taking aim at Sarah the Slasher is the liberal blog ThinkProgress, which carried this headline: “Palin cut funding for Alaska Special Olympics.” Ali Frick wrote, “Palin vetoed $275,000 in Special Olympics funds . . . slashing the organization’s operating budget in half.”

And most recently, Al Hunt wrote in an oped: “Her decision to have a Down syndrome child this year and pledge to be an advocate for families with special-needs kids was inspiring for any family with such children. Why then did she veto a bill passed by the Alaska legislature increasing funding for the Special Olympics?”

#ad#As we write, opposition researchers are going through Alaska budgets looking for more “cuts” in funding. What’s the truth?

The confusion stems from a failure — or refusal — to understand the difference between cutting funding and declining to increase funding to the requested degree. In a cut, you get less money; with a denied raise you get at least as much as you got before. This is not the first time liberals have abused these terms for political purposes.

Last year, the state of Alaska gave the Special Olympics $250,000. This year, the Alaska legislature requested $550,000 for Special Olympics, which would have constituted a 120 percent increase. It is typical, of course, for advocates to submit impossibly high budget requests, even during budget crunches, in the hopes of getting whatever they can. This is understood by anyone who has ever run an organization or prepared a budget that requires legislative or executive approval.

 

Gov. Palin denied the request, but not completely: She reduced it to a 10-percent raise, approving a gift of $275,000. A 10 percent raise during tough times is very good, as any employee in America would quickly attest. For most employees, a raise of 3 to 4 percent is a good raise.

In other words, not only did Palin not cut funding, she actually raised it — just not as much as some would have liked.

As a further check into the context of the 2008 raise, we went back to the 2005 budget. For that year, the Special Olympics received only $125,000. We also reviewed the Special Olympics 990 form for 2006, which shows that the group received over $1.8 million in revenues that year; thus, the organization gets the vast majority of its money from sources other than the state.

These numbers are straightforward. This information is easily accessible on the state of Alaska and Guidestar websites, and took us about 30 minutes to find. In other words, two professors at a little college in Western Pennsylvania have been left to do the simple research that America’s top news organizations — scrambling all over Alaska to dig up information on Gov.Palin — have ignored or, worse, abused.

No, Mr. Olbermann, there’s nothing “sick” about the way Palin balanced her commitments to special-needs funding and fiscal responsibility. What is sick is how the political biases of American journalists have corrupted their ability to do their job.

 – Warren Throckmorton and Paul Kengor are professors at Grove City College in Grove City, Pa. They are also fellows at the Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.

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