Woodward and Bernstein, eat your hearts out.
But read the story. The situations described therein seem less symptomatic of small town corruption than emblematic of small town informality -- something that may seem alien to AP reporters from the big city, but won't be to most Americans. The rigidity and regimentation of big city life in the lower 48 isn't the norm in such places. Rules are meant to bend with real-world circumstances. Familiarity and proximity instead serve as checks on bad behavior or abuses of power. Neighborly gestures, including the giving of gifts, aren't automatically construed as bribes or inducements. And, yes, someone in a position of power may get some minor perks as a result -- though this happens to elected officials at every level of government, and doesn't necessarily breed corruption.
A reasonable person -- which a Pulitzer-hunting reporter isn't -- will not read dark motives or machinations into the "revelations" presented in the story. Zoning variances are granted all the time -- as they should be, since most zoning laws are ridiculous and unjust. And a mayor is as entitled to get one as anyone else. As well, politicians from the federal level on down routinely vote on tax measures that potentially benefit them or their family members: Is the AP suggesting that all such votes are tainted by self-interest, or that all those who are taxed must recuse themselves from such votes? That, too, is silly.
The AP obviously is expending a lot of effort and money scouring Alaska for material damaging to Palin. But the results of this "investigation" seem a poor return on the investment, and it seems as though the news service is straining to produce stories by turning molehills into mountains. Some media scrutiny and scrubbing is to be expected for anyone on the presidential ticket. But is the news service an equal opportunity investigator? Have teams of AP reporters been dispatched to Chicago, to probe Barack Obama's past in Chicago machine politics? I doubt it. Has a reporting team been dispatched to Delaware, to see if Joe Biden ever got comped a crab cake? I'm guessing not.