POLITICO (Washington) - Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin is aggressively pushing back against reports that claim an independent investigator has found evidence she may have violated Alaska’s ethics laws.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday afternoon that an independent investigator for the state Personnel Board found that there may be evidence suggesting that a trust fund created to pay Palin’s legal expenses is in violation of state ethics law.
Palin immediately called the AP report an “inaccurate story” on her Twitter feed, and released a statement later calling any allegation that the defense fund accepted any inappropriate donations “misguided and factually in error.”
“I am informed that this fund was created by experienced attorneys in DC and was modeled after other similar funds established for senators and others. The fund itself was not created by me nor is it controlled by me. Neither I nor my lawyer has received a penny from this fund, and I am informed the Trustee was withholding any action or payment pending final resolution with the Personnel Board. This is the hallmark of legal compliance and prudent conduct,” Palin said.
“In short, I have not ‘acted’ relative to the defense fund and it is misleading to say I have,” she added. “I have no doubt that the Trust will welcome guidance by the Board, as do we all, but it is my understanding that this matter was not resolved and the complainant’s violation of law has served to mislead the public and prejudice a fair review of this matter.”
Several of the governor’s top confidants also sharply criticized the report, pointing out that under Alaska law the contents of the document should have remained confidential because the matter is still under review.
“The investigator is still confidentially reviewing this matter,” said Palin spokeswoman and top advisor Meg Stapleton in a statement. “It appears suspect that in the final days of the Governor’s term, someone would again violate the law and announce a supposed conclusion before it is reached.”
The governor’s personal attorney, Thomas Van Flein, quickly followed Stapleton with a statement pointing out that he has “been working with the investigator regarding supplemental information. The matter is still pending. Whatever you have seen was released in violation of law.”
“There has been no board finding of an ethics violation and there is a detailed legal process to follow before there is a final resolution,” said Van Flein.
“We will be contacting the appropriate authorities for review and action,” he said, referring to those involved in the release of the investigator’s report.
The director of the governor’s legal defense fund, longtime Palin friend and Wasilla resident Kristan Cole, also issued a statement reminding reporters “that this legal expense fund was thoroughly vetted by numerous attorneys from Alaska to the East Coast.”
“The purpose of the Trust is to help the Governor with the crushing legal fees she has incurred solely because of her public service,” said Cole.
Despite announcing that she will resign at the end of July, Palin continues to be plagued by ethics complaints as she winds down her final days in office.
At least four complaints have been filed against Palin since she announced on July 3 that she was stepping down, bringing the total filed against her during her two and a half years in office to roughly 20. The exact number cannot be confirmed because the Alaska Department of Law does not comment on the complaints.
Self-described Alaska government watchdog Andrée McLeod has filed two of the most recent complaints, bringing the activist’s total to six since filing her first complaint last summer.
“Alaskans expect their public officials to follow the rules of law; especially the ones that are intended to keep them honest,” McLeod said in a statement emailed to reporters Monday announcing her latest complaint. “Instead this woman admits to having no intention of complying with our laws.”
McLeod’s most recent filing asserts that Palin violated the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act by failing to submit disclosure documents claiming gifts received within the last 30 days. McLeod pegged her complaint to a letter Palin wrote on June 15—a letter the governor wrote to protest against the deluge of ethics complaints—in which Palin pointed out that “there are boxes of unopened mail at this point, even mail that was delivered in 2008.”
The Alaska governor has made a habit of responding to the most recent complaints via her Twitter feed, firing off eight tweets within three hours following McLeod’s complaint Monday.
“In violation of Ethics Act more allegations were filed today by serial complainer; gave to press be4 we could respond; ridiculous, wasteful,” Palin tweeted from her Blackberry. “Some ask why not sue abusers of Ethics Act bc state wastes 1000’s hrs/millions of tax dollars to fight (and win!) frivolous charges, though it costs political critics NOTHING to file/play their wasteful game; They should debate policy in political arena, not hide w/process abuse.”
“BUT if there was a suit to end public waste of time/funds to constantly address false allegations I could see perhaps a veteran filing it, someone who’s put their life on the line protecting even opponents’ right to speak & protest, was willing to die for freedom of press but knows it’s shameful 4 valuable time& public resources to be diverted from needed causes to deal w/this abuse of government accountability system,” she continued. “Hopefully these political critics filing this stuff (& some in press perpetuating it) appreciate the freedom to do so, protected by our vets.”
The vast majority of the complaints filed against the Alaska governor have come in the year since she was picked as Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) vice presidential running mate. Unlike the congressional ethics complaint process and the practices of numerous other states, any Alaska resident can file a complaint as long as it is submitted in writing, signed under oath and includes the details of the alleged violation.
The complaints run the gamut from Palin’s use of state funds and staff while traveling to a jacket she wore to a snow machine race sporting the logo of her husband’s sponsor.
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