Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Examining Gov. Sarah Palin

SUMMARY: John McCain's surprising choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential nominee gives PolitiFact a fresh face. We start by digging into her resume.

John McCain ended his veepstakes Aug. 29, 2008, by selecting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. The 44-year-old first-term governor is the mother of five and a far cry from a Washington insider.

"She's exactly who I need. She's exactly who this country needs to help me fight the same old Washington politics of 'Me first and country second,' " McCain said, introducing Palin at a rally in Dayton, Ohio.

McCain could have done us a favor by picking Mitt Romney, whose many attacks on McCain during the Republican presidential primary kept us busy.

But we're happy to welcome Palin to the Truth-O-Meter. In Dayton, she introduced herself to the crowd and we got started fact-checking. Here are two claims we checked:

• Palin said, "When oil and gas prices went up so dramatically and the state revenues followed with that increase, I sent a large share of that revenue directly back to the people of Alaska." We found she did push a measure to return state surplus revenue back to residents of mineral-rich Alaska. On Aug. 7, 2008, the Alaska Legislature approved legislation she promoted that sends $1,200 to every Alaskan who qualifies. Right off the bat, she gets a True.

• But her second visit from the Truth-O-Meter doesn't go as well. Palin said, "I championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress. In fact, I told Congress ... 'Thanks, but no thanks,' on that bridge to nowhere." Pork-barrel spending is a favorite issue of McCain, and the so-called bridge to nowhere is one of his favorite examples. It's accurate that Palin was the governor who formally killed the infamous proposal to build a $400-million bridge between a tiny town and its tiny airport on a tiny island. But the truth is that by the time Palin took action, the project had been exposed as a glaring example of waste, had been nixed from federal spending plans and was unpopular even among Alaskans. Plus, the federal money for the bridge didn't go back to the federal government, it went to Alaska to spend on other projects. That makes this claim Half True.

On Sunday, McCain talked up his new running mate on Fox News Sunday, so we checked two more claims on Palin.

• First, McCain said, "When she was in government, he (Obama) was a community organizer." Actually, when Obama was a community organizer in Chicago, from 1985 to 1988, Palin was working as a television sports reporter (1987-1989). Palin first entered government when she was elected to the city council of Wasilla, Alaska, in 1992. At that time, Obama was directing a statewide voter registration drive. We rule this claim False.

• Next, McCain said Palin "has had 12 years of elected office experience." He's right. Palin served four years on the Wasilla city council, then was mayor for six years. She was elected governor nearly two years ago, so that makes 12. We rule this claim True.