Palin fends off all ethics charges brought since ’08
The accusations made news, but with another dismissal of an ethics charge two weeks ago against Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice-presidential nominee has quietly been cleared of every ethics complaint filed since the torrent of allegations began in 2008.
Mrs. Palin, who became a target of such complaints after being named Sen. John McCain’s running mate, is 14-for-14 in fighting off the complaints. She’s been cleared of 13 charges by the independent State Personnel Board and of another complaint by the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
After the latest complaint in Alaska was dismissed, Mrs. Palin’s team said that having to fend off the pile of accusations was wasting state money.
“This complaint cost the governor personally, and the state of Alaska, thousands of dollars to address,” said Thomas Van Flein, the governor’s attorney. “It is regrettable that the ethics process has been diverted for partisan purposes by some, but it is also commendable that the board remains focused on the law.”
The floodgates opened after Mrs. Palin was tapped by Mr. McCain of Arizona and she was accused of abusing power by firing state Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.
Four complaints related to this matter were filed to the personnel board. One of them was filed by the governor as a means of selfdisclosure. In the end, no violation was found.
Even after the election was over, the stream of complaints continued.
Alaska residents challenged Mrs. Palin’s trips out of state to attend a campaign event for Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican, and to speak at a pro-life breakfast in Indiana, as well as for conducting television interviews in her state office.
The latest complaint to be decided was filed by Anchorage resident Linda Kellen Biegel, who took issue with Mrs. Palin for wearing to a public function a jacket made by a company that sponsored the governor’s husband, Todd, a snow machine racer. Ms. Biegel asked the personnel board to determine whether Mrs. Palin was abusing her position to serve her personal and financial interests.
Mrs. Palin called the complaint “asinine political grandstanding,” and the board’s independent in- vestigator said there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
“My investigation has uncovered no evidence that the governor or her husband received anything of value in exchange for the governor wearing the Team Arctic jacket when she acted as the official starter of the 2009 Iron Dog,” said Thomas Daniel, the investigator. “I also note that most jackets worn by Alaskans have a company name or logo on them.”
The personnel board is a threemember panel of non-state workers who are appointed by the governor. Mrs. Palin’s predecessor appointed two of the three current members, Chairwoman Debra English and Laura Plenert, although Mrs. Palin reappointed Ms. English for another term in January 2008. Mrs. Palin appointed the third member, Alfred Tamagni Sr., in March 2006.
Rules dictate that no more than two of the members can belong to the same political party. Ms. English is a registered Republican; Ms. Plenert and Mr. Tamagni have no declared party affiliation.
The personnel board normally would be expected to meet only two or three times a year, but their workload has increased because of the number of complaints filed.
Mrs. Palin said defending herself against the complaints has cost more than $500,000, and she set up a legal defense fund to cover the costs.
Eagle River resident Kim Chatman challenged that move. “Governor Palin is perched to improperly receive an enormous amount of money for herself and her family and position a pool of pre-paid defense lawyers organized to deflect consequences of wrongdoings,” Ms. Chatman said in the filing.
That complaint is still pending, though it’s unclear whether other complaints are. The personnel board isn’t supposed to talk about complaints until the matter has been resolved.
In the wake of the complaints, the personnel board sought to make the public aware of the cost of investigating the complaints. Mr. Tamagni estimated that the board has spent “close to a third of a million dollars.”
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, in Purchase, N.Y., on June 7 for an autism awareness fundraiser, says complaints are costing her state thousands of dollars.