Palin’s Alaska Record: Who is Don Mitchell?


alaska permanent fund check.jpg
I just received an email that has just begun to kick around since Friday. Like the email from Anne Kilkenny, this email may be written by an Alaska resident.
The email allegedly comes from a lawyer for the National Wildlife Refuge, Don Mitchell. I have confirmed that there is a naturalist and writer named Don Mitchell — but I have been unable to confirm that he actually wrote this. I should also add that the original email, before it was sent to me, had a lot of name-calling and harsh words, which have been removed by the person who passed it on to me.
But whether Don Mitchell wrote this or not, there is a point in the email that deserves attention: you can be an awful governor and hide a lot of errors when you run an oil producing state when a barrel of crude runs between $100 and $140.
And the whopper in this note is that she sent even larger checks to all of Alaska’s citizens on top of the Alaska Permanent Fund dividends while Alaska has been in surplus rather than investing in infrastructure that the state badly needs.
So no matter the provenance of this piece allegedly by Don Mitchell, it is important reading:

This is from an old college friend of Charlotte’s, Don Mitchell. He is a lawyer for the National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, lives there and testifies a lot in Washington, D.C. This is what he sent out to about 30 people who e-mailed him on Friday. Send it on if you think it appropriate.
In lieu of responding one by one to the telephone calls and email traffic, as of this afternoon, my view of the Palin situation is as follows:
Sarah has been one of the most incompetent governors in Alaska history. She knows next to nothing about the nuts and bolts of state government, the little she does know about it she doesn’t like, and most of the people she has appointed to help her are worse than she is.
But Sarah’s operational incompetence has been masked by $120 to $140 a barrel oil….
To cite one of many examples, Sarah has felt so bad about Alaskans having to pay $4.26 for regular when we fill up on Saturday mornings at Costco that, in addition to the $2,000 the state is sending us in October as our share of this year’s earnings from the Alaska Permanent Fund, Sarah is sending every man, woman, child in Alaska an extra $1,200 (at a total cost of almost $1 billion).
For that she has received universal acclaim for having had the imagination to craft such a sensible state energy policy.

More later.
— Steve Clemons
Editor’s Note: Thanks to A.S. for sending this our way.


16 comments on “Palin’s Alaska Record: Who is Don Mitchell?

  1. Steve says:

    I doubt Donald Craig Mitchell is the person who wrote that email. Here’s a bio from one of his highly regarded books on Alaska Native Land legislation:
    “Donald Craig Mitchell is a former vice president and general counsel of the Alaska Federation of Natives. In private practice since 1984, he has been intimately involved in federal Native policy, and in 1997 represented Senator Ted Stevens and the state in Alaska v Native Village of Venetie. He is author of numerous articles on Alaska Native law.”
    People don’t “work for” a Wildlife Refuge, but rather for the Department of Interior. Perhaps this person works for an environmental group that advocates to protect refuges.
    In any case, long time Alaskan attorney and historian Don Mitchell doesn’t write like that. You can read a recent post of his on Palin related issues at and compare the language.
    As an Alaskan who is strongly opposed to Palin for vice president, though until recently she was doing reasonably well as governor on important issues for the state, I’d be amused, if it were not so serious, how liberals and conservatives alike have created their own caricatures of Palin from bits and pieces of news from the media they both say can’t be trusted.


  2. arthurdecco says:

    I can see why you chose your name, Nobcentral. It’s apt.
    “Radical, dictatorial leftists” aren’t elected in honest and free elections by over 70 per cent of the population.


  3. Nobcentral says:

    You know, it occurs to me that her $1,200 rebate mimics, almost exactly, the policy of Hugo Chavez (which is also the primary reason why Chavez has maintained power is because of the gasoline subsidy). It’s a great way to legally buy votes but really isn’t good in any other sense. I don’t think this can be capitalized on by Obama, but I do think it’s interesting when any radical conservative uses policies of radical, dictatorial leftists.


  4. arthurdecco says:

    WigWag, this morning the sky is gun metal gray in my world.
    From my earlier post: “All three of these politicians warrant the concentrated attention of sane and concerned Americans and other world citizens because of their accomplishments AND their FAILURES (emphasis added).”
    None are my “heroes”. All are affecting the world I live in and so deserve careful study. All outperform Palin on every level.
    Any other questions?


  5. philip turner says:

    I have met a Donald Craig Mitchell, author of an important book called Take My Land, on Native Land Claims in the 49th state. I met him in in NYC once when he was back East, to testify in Congress on Alaska and resource issues. It is stated above that the Don Mitchell who wrote this email about Sarah Palin also testifies to Congress.
    If the Don Mitchell now working for the Nat’l Wildlife Refuge is the same fellow I met in the early 2000s, he is legit, and a very experienced hand at Alaska issues.
    Philip Turner


  6. WigWag says:

    “Anyone who thinks that any of the three men WigWag has chosen to ridicule with her ridiculous comparison of them to the dangerously religiously delusional and politically underqualified Sarah Palin, owe their success exclusively to high oil prices is an ignorant boob…”
    Sorry, Arthur, I apologize for demeaning your heroes. I just forgot that you think Sarah Palin is “dangerously religiously delusional” and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad isn’t.
    By the way, what color is the sky in your world?


  7. arthurdecco says:

    WigWag said: “Sarah Palin as incompetent as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez or Vladamir Putin. Successful only because of high oil prices.”
    Yet another specious comment, WigWag. You must have a bag full of ‘em hidden somewhere. Do you ever actually think about the nonsense you post before you hit the submit button?
    Notice how it’s always the same people that mountebanks like WW try to focus our attention on, no matter how awkward the lack of context may be, OR no matter the lack of truthfulness existent in their broad smears? I have to ask: Who supplies her with these grotesque perversions of fact and why are they eerily similar to other information manipulators’ widely dispersed distortions? Who’s really doing the thinking behind WigWag’s tag when she writes like this? Is it a vengeful gnome chained to the wall in some dark, dank corner of her condo’s service area that lies behind these perversions?
    Naw…I think I’ll stick with: A Central Registry/Clearing House organized to disseminate the latest self-interested talking points to the willing, the swilling and the always wrong.
    Anyone who thinks that any of the three men WigWag has chosen to ridicule with her ridiculous comparison of them to the dangerously religiously delusional and politically underqualified Sarah Palin, owe their success exclusively to high oil prices is an ignorant boob, three quarters through their personal glug of the life-ending kool aid I highly recommend they finish swallowing.
    All three of these politicians warrant the concentrated attention of sane and concerned Americans and other world citizens because of their accomplishments AND their failures. Their voices need to be heard, their messages digested. None of them deserve the ridicule that WigWag has focused on them with her simple-minded credit to oil prices for their political success.
    Spare us the pop psychology and infantile insults, WigWag.
    You’re capable of so much more when you do your own thinking.


  8. erichwwk says:

    Actually, I would venture to say that MOST ALL capitalist of the original capitalist school would hold that capitalism works better with a certain amount of regulation, with appropriate taxes and expenditure on public goods.
    That was the sense of capitalism ala Frank Knight, Kenneth Boulding, or Henry Simons, who all took up Adam Smith’s thread that “Whenever men get together they talk of fixing prices” and markets required a counterveiling force to prevent monopoly Simons (perhaps in his 1934 article “A Positive Program for Laissez Faire”) even went so far as to say it is preposterous to believe there were any laissez faire principles are at all descriptive in a corporation. There is little to no difference between a corporate control of an industry and a one party control of that industry. We do NOT have capitalism in America today, per the original meaning of capitalism and the invisible hand.
    From that Simons article suggesting appropriate economic policy:
    “A Federal incorporation law could be used to limit corporation size and where technology required giant firms for reasons of low cost production the Federal government should own and operate them.” Not what todays psuedo free market(not) folks are trying to sell.
    Just as Gov. Palin rants about others saying one thing to one audience, and something different to another, that is precisely what she herself does.
    In that sense, most of what one hears as “free market capitalism” is just the opposite.
    This radical ANTI- capitalism is often called the second (or third) Chicago school of economics and came in when Milton Friedman abandoned scientific principles and writings in favor of money from corporate sponsors to write his ideological piece of fluff “Freedom to Choose” (with Rose).
    In fact, the NYTimes just ran a summary of an economic study by Alan Blinder that showed economic growth tends to be better under Democratic presidents, rather than Republican ones, precisely BECAUSE they understand the positive role of regulation, and appropriate tax and revenue policies, despite Republican rantings to claim the opposite.


  9. questions says:

    The money Republicans, the smart Republicans, would seem to be hating on Ms. Palin in a very policy-oriented way. They may well do a percentage of Obama’s work for him. Go Economist! Go WSJ!
    Perhaps there are some capitalists who realize that capitalism does better with a certain amount of regulation around the edges.


  10. Chicagoan says:

    We get the politics and the politicians we deserve. God help us all…


  11. Matt says:

    The Economist reported this as well:
    “Mrs Palin has been less single-minded in her pursuit of pork than other Alaskan politicians (which is, admittedly, setting the bar pretty high). But she can take credit for the other pillar of Alaska’s economy: windfall taxes. Last year she championed a tax hike on oil companies which is helping bring in huge sums—more than $10 billion in the fiscal year that ended in June, according to the companies that pay them. Suddenly flush, the state has promised $1,200 to every man, woman and child, ostensibly to cover the high cost of fuel.
    That giveaway is just the start. Rather than paying taxes to the state, Alaskans receive cheques from it. In “The Simpsons Movie”, released last year, Homer Simpson is handed $1,000 at the Alaskan border for “allowing the oil companies to ravage the state’s natural beauty”. That is an understatement: this month’s payments from the Alaska permanent fund are expected to be about twice as big. With the fuel surplus, this alone would get a family of four three-fifths of the way towards the federal poverty line in the lower 48 states.”


  12. Bill R. says:

    Some retired friends of mine from Alaska just got their two $1200 checks, soon to be followed by their two $2000 checks. They were embarassed some, since they are affluent. They gave the money to charities but cited the genuine needs of the low income Alaskans and the decaying infrastructure in some areas. And this is the same governor who vetoed funding for a successful program for teen unwed mothers. Great values here!


  13. Bartolo says:

    How does the Alaska Permanent Fund work? Here in Virginia, we have no such fund for parcelling out income derived from accepting garbage from States to our north.


  14. Steve Clemons says:

    Bean — I think so, but I still haven’t been able to confirm that the email came from Don Mitchell so would rather not make that the issue. but the content of the letter is quite significant.
    best, steve


  15. Bean says:

    There is an article on the NPR Morning Edition website from
    7/30/08 by Martin Kaste that quotes Don Mitchell and describes
    him as a writer, lawyer and Alaska historian. The article is about
    Ted Steven’s indictment. Probably the same Don Mitchell, no?


  16. WigWag says:

    Sarah Palin as incompetent as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez or Vladamir Putin. Successful only because of high oil prices. This may be right on the facts, but it is bad politics.


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