Wasn’t McCain initially trying to pitch Sarah Palin as some sort of maverick who stands up to Alaska’s dirty industries on matters of principle?

Whatever. According to an excellent post by Barry Estabrook on Gourmet magazine’s blog, Sarah Barracuda has been baring her fangs on behalf of Alaska’s mining industry, even when its actions imperil what Estabrook calls “one of the world’s largest and most sustainable wild salmon fisheries.”

According to Estabrook, Palin openly defied a state law prohibiting governors from lobbying for or against ballot initiatives — in order to publicly denounce a proposal that would have limited the “amount of arsenic and other toxic pollutants that new, large-scale mines could dump into the state’s waterways.”

Just a week before accepting McCain’s veep invitation, Palin urged voters to reject the initiative, assuring them that Alaska already had “great, very stringent regulations and policies already in place” to protect waterways from mine waste. In other words, "trust us."

The initiative was defeated. Here’s how Estabrook describes Palin’s dilemma between supporting mining versus fishery interests:

On one hand, you have an industry (mining) that employs 5,500 people in your state and generates $200 million in tax revenues. It is based on a finite resource that will run out one day. On the other hand, you have an industry (salmon fishing in Bristol Bay alone) that employs 12,000 people and contributes $250 million to the economy. This industry is based on a sustainably managed renewable resource that will be around long after the last ton of ore is dug out of Pebble Mine. Which would you favor?

Actually, Palin’s exertions on behalf of the mining industry have gone beyond merely publicly haranguing voters to vote "no" on the initiative. I did some digging around, and found this: The fishery owners who supported the initiative have formerly complained that the Alaska Department of Natural Resources issued propaganda opposing it. They claim:

It has become clear to us that the Department of Natural Resources is working hand-in-hand with the industry, and that the state is inappropriately making efforts to influence voters on this ballot initiative.

According to Estabrook, the initiative’s defeat leaves the salmon fishery Bristol Bay vulnerable to toxins from a massive mining project now establishing directly upstream. If this is the work of a maverick, there’s not much new about it. Seems a lot like business as usual in Washington.