Palin fends off all ethics charges brought since ’08

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY AMANDA CAR­PEN­TER

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.”

GETTY IM­AGES

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.

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