Before deciding to run for governor in 2006, Palin had made a name for herself during a short tenure on the state's Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, to which she was appointed by Murkowski in early 2003. Before she resigned a year later, she had filed private complaints against fellow commissioner Randy Ruedrich, the state GOP chairman, claiming he had done party business on state time and leaked information to oil company executives. Ruedrich was forced to resign. She then filed a public complaint, and Ruedrich had to pay a $12,000 fine and admit the violations Palin had alleged.
Palin also helped force Attorney General Gregg Renkes out of office because of an alleged conflict of interest. Renkes was later exonerated.
Palin made her opposition to corporate cronyism the centerpiece of her primary campaign in 2006, urging Alaskans to "Take A Stand" for clean government.
While Palin was on the stump, FBI agents were taping drunken meetings between Alaska lawmakers and oil services executives who wanted to slash the oil tax. One legislator took cash on camera; others asked for future jobs.
Palin won the August 22 GOP primary easily. Incumbent governor Murkowski came in a distant third. A little over a week after Palin's victory, the Alaska corruption scandal broke. FBI agents raided the offices of six Republican lawmakers. Twelve people were ultimately indicted and 11 convicted, including three lawmakers, though two of those legislators convicted are now out of prison because of prosecutorial misconduct.
In the run-up to the general election, Palin did not have to change her campaign theme. The "Take A Stand" motif was reused in new commercials that added the name of running mate Sean Parnell, and she repeated her promise to clean up Juneau. . According to her campaign commercials, the "Take A Stand" slogan meant "a clean, clear approach to government" and "saying no to contributions with strings attached."
Her victory in November famously catapulted her from the former mayor of small-town Wasilla to the state's top seat, and less than two years later to Republican candidate for vice president.
In New Jersey, one-time US Attorney Chris Christie built his successful gubernatorial bid on prosecuting dirty public officials. In New York, Andrew Cuomo is campaigning for governor on a promise to limit the influence of lobbyists and special interests in Albany.
Chris Christie, a former corporate lawyer, went straight to the top in his first bid for statewide office. He was appointed US Attorney in 2002, and when he left that post six years later to run for governor, he had burnished his reputation as a corruption-fighter, winning more 100 cases against New Jersey public officials.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo lists ethics reform as his number one issue in his gubernatorial bid. He is running in the wake former governor Elliot Spitzer's relationship with a call girl and current Governor David Paterson fines for accepting free baseball tickets.
Ethics investigations can be cyclical. When Palin accepted the vice-presidential nomination at the 2008 Republic National Convention, she touted her credentials.
"I came to office promising major ethics reform, to end the culture of self-dealing. And today, that ethics reform is the law," she said.