About that pay cut….

ABOUT THAT PAY CUT…. As part of the drive to create a charming, folksy narrative around Sarah Palin, the McCain campaign has come up with a variety of claims. She opposed the Bridge to Nowhere! She vetoed congressional earmarks! She sold a gubernatorial jet on eBay for a profit! She even cut her own salary!

One by one, those claims have fallen apart rather spectacularly. She supported the infamous bridge, she’s sought and received hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks, and the jet sale was a bit of a debacle and lost the state money.

And then there’s the pay cut. “As mayor I took a voluntary pay cut, which didn’t thrill my husband; and then as governor I cut the personal chef position from the budget, and that didn’t thrill my hungry kids,” Palin told an audience last week, to laughter and applause.

Is that true? Well, the chef line is misleading — she actually reassigned the chef when Palin decided to live mostly in Wasilla instead of Juneau, and the chef ended up working for the state legislature. Cut from the budget? Not really.

But what about the “voluntary pay cut”? Well, when Palin took office in 1996, she made $64,200 as Wasilla’s mayor. The next year, that dropped to $61,200. In 1998, however, the salary rose to $68,000. After another modest dip in 1999, Palin enjoyed a $68,000 annual salary for her final three years in office. If one makes $64,200, and then ends up making $68,000, it’s a little tough to characterize it as a “voluntary pay cut.” The McCain campaign has an affinity for redefining words to suit its purposes, but this is a tough sell.

Greg Sargent did some great digging on this story, and fleshes out what happened.

As best as we can determine, the cuts were engineered by Palin herself through some sort of executive mechanism, and the raises were City Council-mandated hikes.

What’s the upshot? Well, Palin’s claim that she “took a pay cut” as mayor is true in a narrow sense. She came in and took a pay cut that she engineered herself.

But in a broader sense, the claim is an oversimplification that borders on misleading. The bottom line is that whatever her intentions, over the course of her mayoralty Palin’s pay went up thousands of dollars and stayed higher for years, money which she presumably kept. (If any proof emerges that she donated it to charity or channeled it back into city coffers in some other way, we’ll happily update.)

There may be some exculpatory details yet to emerge, but at this point, it sounds like yet another example added to the very long list of Palin claims that don’t stand up well to scrutiny.