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Alaska lawmakers undo Palin's handiwork

She had refused $28 million in US stimulus funds, but the legislature voted on Monday to override her veto. Will that close the Palin era in Alaska politics?

By Yereth RosenCorrespondent / August 11, 2009

State Rep. Bob Lynn (R) of Anchorage, passes protesters as he walks into the special legislative session in Anchorage, Alaska, Monday.

Al Grillo/AP

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Anchorage, Alaska

Sarah Palin has been out of office for two weeks, but Alaskans remain caught in her celebrity wake.

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In what some state lawmakers say they hope is their last tiff with the ex-governor, the legislature on Monday mustered the votes needed to override Ms. Palin’s controversial veto of $28 million in federal stimulus funding for energy-conservation projects.

The amount was only about 3 percent of the total stimulus package offered to Alaska, but Palin – the 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate who some see as staking out the far-right territory in a possible bid for the White House in 2012 – argued against accepting the funds, saying onerous federal strings were attached to them.

“Legislators don’t need to play politics as usual and accept these funds and the ropes that come with them,” she said in a message on her Facebook page posted on the eve of Monday's session.

Supporters of the veto override took care to portray it as an in-state affair, a matter of shoring up an energy-conservation program that has been operating in Alaska since 1997. They rejected Palin’s arguments that accepting the money would require new, burdensome, non-Alaskan buildings codes imposed by the federal government.

“This was not a vote against Sarah Palin. This was a vote to bring money to Alaska to weatherize homes. Every other state has done that,” Senate President Gary Stevens, a Republican who supported the override, said afterward.

But it was hard to overlook the national spotlight trained on lawmakers as they took on their famous ex-governor.

Shortly before the special, one-day session began in an Anchorage convention hall, supporters of Palin and foes of President Obama – self-proclaimed antigovernment “Tea Baggers” – held a raucous rally, complete with signs, buttons, and T-shirts that blasted Mr. Obama and touted Palin as his successor in 2012.

“Do Not Suckle from the Federal Treasury as the Money is Narcotic,” read one protester’s sign. “Sarah was Right – We Don’t Need Stimulus,” read another.

“Where’s the Socialists? Where they at?” local talk-show radio host Eddie Burk called into a megaphone.

Inside the temporary legislative chambers, national politics seeped into the debate.

“I want to send a message to [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and the other busybodies in Washington, D.C., to keep their pea-picking hands off of how we do things here in Alaska,” said Rep. Bob Lynn (R), a loyal Palin supporter.