Editor's note: This story was originally published December 13, 2006
With an eBay account and about $2.5 million, you too can fly in the state jet that cost former Gov. Frank Murkowski so much political pain in his failed re-election campaign.
Gov. Sarah Palin announced Tuesday that she plans to sell the Westwind II online to the highest bidder.
Murkowski bought the jet over the objections of the Legislature. Before leaving office earlier this month, he regularly used it to travel around the state, sharing it with the Department of Public Safety.
While running against Murkowski, Palin promised to "get rid" of the aircraft. If eBay doesn't work, the state will try something else, she said Tuesday.
As for the Public Safety Department, which uses the Westwind II to transport prisoners out of state, Palin said she's asking the department to tell her what kind of aircraft would suit it best, and she will look for an OK from lawmakers to provide it.
"This is big enough and symbolic enough of an item that the Legislature should have their say," she said.
But in a phone interview days before he left office, Murkowski said selling the jet was a bad idea. The jet is fast and safe, and replacing it would be a step backward -- like using a typewriter when you already have a computer, he said.
Palin said the Public Safety Department needs an aircraft that's more versatile then the Westwind II and that can land on more runways around rural Alaska.
She said she'll get around the far-flung state the same way previous governors have -- on commercial flights, and in the state's old King Air propeller planes, like the one she used to fly from Anchorage to Fairbanks on Tuesday.
Palin spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton said that because the Legislature wouldn't approve money for the jet, the Murkowski administration bought it the way you might buy a car -- making regular payments over 15 years while paying no money down.
The state makes quarterly payments of $62,492.79 on the jet, she said. After the payment due Friday, Alaska will still owe $2,516,386.06.
The state's chief procurement officer, Vern Jones, said it's not usual for Alaska to sell big-ticket items on eBay because the site is cheap and has a big audience.
It cost the state a few hundred dollars to sell an old state ferry, The Bartlett, for $389,500 in 2003, he said. "They got more for that then they expected."
Tuesday night, the state was auctioning 38 items on the site, including three aircraft -- two Super Cubs and a Cessna. Two of the planes have already reached the minimum bids set by the state, meaning Jones expects them to sell for sure.
Other items for sale included two sets of used helicopter floats ($300) and King Air exhaust stacks ($500). In the "feedback" section, someone had written: "Great Seller -- Great State -- Great People."
As of Tuesday night, the jet was not yet listed.
So who would buy a $2.5 million jet from the state of Alaska?
Jones didn't want to speculate. He was going to say "rich guys," he said, "but that sounds kind of obvious."
One warning to the jet's potential buyers: Murkowski said in the interview before he left office that despite all the fuss, it's actually not that comfortable.
"You can't stand up in it," he said, and the bathroom is basically a port-a-potty. "You dare not use it."