Apparently It’s Unethical for Sarah Palin to Defend Herself



palin-journal-2012 I’m late on blogging about this, but wanted to give it some attention.  A little over a week ago, an investigator hired by the Alaska State Personnel Board determined that Sarah Palin’s established legal defense fund, The Alaska Fund Trust, broke state ethics laws, and so goes the Catch 22.  It was declared to be unethical for others to raise money on her behalf to defray costs of mounting a legal defense.

Anchorage Daily News reported:

Tim Petumenos, an Anchorage attorney hired by the state Personnel Board to investigate, said Thursday the legal defense fund violated state law because it "constituted using public office to obtain private benefit." He said the fund, which was set up while Palin was still governor, inappropriately said it was the "official website" of Palin, and made reference to her work in public office. Petumenos upheld an ethics complaint that was filed 15 months ago against the trust.

This sounds asinine doesn’t it?  It’s unethical to collect funds to offset legal fees accrued defending against ethical complaints due to her being in office.  It is “unethical” for her to defend herself.  So she was personally on the hook, which essentially means that it cost her money to serve as Governor.   So the fund has 90 days to return the donations it received prior to her resignation as Governor which would be prior to July 27, 2009.  The fund had raised $386,000 of over $500,000 in legal fees the Palins had amassed due to ethics complaints (all of which have been dismissed).  No money of the fund was spent as it was frozen due to the ethics complaint filed in response to its creation.

Kristan Cole, the Fund trustee responded in a statement:

It is a shocking miscarriage of justice to have the investigator conclude that a sitting governor has to incur personal liability to defend herself against malicious and abusive attacks, and to conclude that a governor in that position can’t raise money from the public to help defray these costs. In fact the Alaska law specifically allowed Governor Palin to personally and directly solicit donations up to $150 each with no public reporting and she could have personally solicited donations in excess of $150 if she reported them and did not use her public office to do so. AS 39.52.110-130. It is simply legally unsound to suggest a trust could not do for Sarah Palin what the statute allowed Sarah Palin to do directly herself. A team of lawyers and over 4 law firms cleared the trust and it was reviewed by law professors prior to the launch of the trust in 2009. To our knowledge, no other similar trust fund has ever been ruled invalid under any state or federal law.  Many federal office holders have legal defense funds, and federal law also prohibits an office holder from using one’s office for personal gain. The trust was modeled after many national political figures’ legal defense trusts. In fact language in John Kerry’s trust is identical to language in Sarah Palin’s trust yet none has found his trust to violate any law. Legal defense trust exist for other governors, judges, senators, congress persons, presidents and other political figures. The following is a small handful of political figures with legal defense trusts: John Kerry, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Ted Stevens, Newt Gingrich and Barack Obama.  Yet no other legal defense fund has been ruled to violate any prohibition on public officials using their public office for personal gain by raising funds for their legal defense.  This unique and unprecedented decision appears specially created for Sarah Palin.

It’s absolutely unbelievable that this decision was made.  Here’s another problem, the attorney who intially investigated worked for Perkins Cole Law Firm which was the Democratic National Committee and the Obama 2008 Presidential Campaign counsel of record.  Yep, no conflict of interest there.  Unbelievable.  Former Palin spokeswoman, Meg Stapleton said in a statement:

The Personnel Board initially appointed an “independent” investigator. That investigator, we later learned, had connections with, and was associated with President Obama. The Personnel Board had hired President Obama’s personal law firm as an “independent” investigator to review whether a fund created to raise money to eliminate a debt incurred as a result of Governor Palin’s opposition to President Obama was appropriate. We objected to both the illegal leak and the blatant political influence, and a new investigator was appointed.

The new investigator spent considerable time reviewing the old information and collecting new, but I think it proved to be too difficult to reverse an already-public decision. He concluded that the Trust fund violated Alaska law in two respects. His biggest heartburn was that we used the word “official” on the website. And he was distressed that we turned down an offer from a former White House Special Counsel to serve as trustee and instead chose an Alaskan whom Alaskans would recognize – Kristan Cole.

Kristan sat on several state boards as a volunteer public servant. The investigator concluded that because she sat on such boards, Governor Palin as governor was technically her boss, and therefore she should not be the trustee of the fund. That is his conclusion and we respect that. The law is not clear on this aspect, and not one member of the legal team saw this as an issue, but again, we respect the conclusion here and it is not worth the time or money to dispute that. But we do want to thank Kristan for taking on that otherwise thankless task. What is it they say about no good deed?

The other conclusion needs context. There was a point where it appeared that people around the country wanted to start legal defense funds for Governor Palin. The support and good will the people of this country have shown to the Palins is inspiring. But a concern was raised whether all these other potential funds would comply with various laws, including donation limits, limits against contributions from lobbyists or contributions from foreign nationals. So we used the word “official” in the website to distinguish the Alaska Fund Trust from ones we were not sure would be compliant. In our view, that was a solid and common sense reason to use the word “official,” but the investigator believes that it made it appear that the website was sponsored by the State of Alaska, and thus would be a use of Governor Palin’s ”official” office to raise money. We are not terribly persuaded that really would be the case or that any member of the public could be confused, but we respect the investigator’s evaluation of this point and it is not worth fighting about. Again, Governor Palin’s prime directive was simple – if this fund could be set up lawfully, she would support it. If not, it would not have her support.

So Governor Palin has reached a point where she decided to agree to resolve this matter with the investigator rather than spend time and money fighting an ethics complaint about a fund that was created to reimburse her for the money she has spent fighting bogus ethics complaints drawn up by insiders and outsiders violating and abusing Alaska law. Really, this is simple pragmatism and common sense. (read the whole statement).

The ethics violations have been dismissed.  They’ve been nothing but political attacks using loopholes within the Alaska Ethics Act to hurt the Palin family personally.  Meg Stapleton said that “no public official should ever have to bear the financial brunt of these attacks.”  I agree.  Like I said before the grand total of her legal fees amount to more than what she earned in her base salary in the 2 1/2 years she was Governor of Alaska.  A new legal defense fund has been created called the Sarah Palin Legal Defense Fund.  If you are able and feel so led, I encourage you to join me in contributing (and people are not limited to the initial $150 per person cap with the last fund).  I’m one of those who will be receiving my donation back and will be more than happy to send it to the new legal defense fund.

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  • Kevin

    As expected Sarah Palin did nothing unethical.

    Interesting that even the media hacks are losing interest in these bogus complaints.
    Only idiot liberal bloggers think this amounts to anything.
    Its too bad that she had to jump through the legal hoops to defend herself from complaints that are now (and were likely then) shown to be baseless.

    • BluedogAK

      I’m curious about your definition of “unethical.” So you’re OK with an elected official who charges per diem to stay in her own home? No problem if your governor flies his or her children around the country and puts them up in $700/nt hotel rooms? If your governor promised you to be “accountable” and “transparent,” it wouldn’t bother you a bit to discover that she was conducting state business on a private email account specifically to avoid scrutiny, and furthermore, did everything in her power to make sure the emails were never made public? And then it’s OK if she parades around the country telling everyone to resist a government that isn’t answerable to the people?

      I’m guessing you’re going to say all of that was legal. You’re correct, she exploited some loopholes in the act she herself championed. But a decent person doesn’t confuse what’s legal with what’s right. You know what the right thing is in these cases. You’re just pretending you don’t.

      I’m going to assume you’re already OK with a legal defense fund that Mrs. Palin was able to use as an ATM for her family and friends for any expenses she wished. Really, you should just mail her your check yourself, cut out all the overhead for those many East Coast elitist advisors she’s paying.

      Sensible Alaskans know that the people who filed complaints were not part of some looney-tunes conspiracy with the Obama Administration. The national scrutiny of Palin showed us a lot of things we didn’t know were going on. THAT’s why the ethics complaints started coming. And we’d just endured the actual outrage of having McCain’s campaign operative, Ed O’Callahan, literally running the governor’s office while she was off gallivanting on the trail. Don’t believe me? Google “Truth Squad” and read the Anchorage Daily News. Meg Stapleton is now disliked more in Alaska than even Palin herself.

      Secondly, some of those complaints were slight and silly. But several of them absolutely were not, under any obvious code of government or personal ethics. Does your boss let you use his money to fly your family around on frivolous trips?

      Mrs. Palin’s claim of her legal expenses is quite questionable, considering that her claim that the state was losing millions on her behalf proved to be total bunk. In fact, the Personnel Board stated that the expenses were not quite $300,000 and of that, Mrs. Palin incurred two-thirds of the costs by filing a complaint against herself. Many of the ethics complaints were less than $1,000. But hey, it’s your money. I’m sure she’ll be grateful you’re sending it, since they’re all living in that shack and scrabbling for dinner.

      Finally, why did Mrs. Palin turn down the state’s offer to pay $100,000 of her legal bills? The reasons she gave are nonsensical.

      You can find her spreadsheet of these alleged costs on the ADN site. You can also find some good analyses explaining where it is padded and inaccurate, should you care to look. You can find all of this confirmed on the Anchorage Daily News and elsewhere. Heck, just compare her own words with her own actions.

      I’m assuming you won’t. Sarah Palin’s acolytes have superimposed the idea of Sarah Palin over the reality of Sarah Palin. It takes some really hard work to be that willfully blind. I salute your cognitive dissonance.

      • http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/?author=2 Shane Vander Hart

        She was paid less in perdiem than any previous governor, her not living in Juneau full-time actually cost taxpayers less. She also voluntarily reimbursed the state for several trips with her family that she thought was likely beyond the scope of her duties.

        You know it’s easy to say crap about trips with her family, but wasn’t she the first governor to have kids that were still living at home?

  • narciso

    How does that comment on #7, make it past moderation, DEO is a particularly well established troll

    • http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/?author=2 Shane Vander Hart

      DEO, to my knowledge, has never commented here before. I don’t read C4P comments that often.

  • akk

    The way Gov Palin has been harassed over the years is stunning. Her trust fund is illegal because she used the word official website!. Does anyone really believe the donors donated to Alaska Governor and not for Mrs Palin?
    The previous Troopergate probe during elections was another master stroke. Interestingly, the first charge for which the probe was started she was found not guilty. But the findings in the report were listed in the reverse order than that in the scope of investigation so that media picked up and headlined the second charge. Interestingly second finding was that she could have prevented her husband exercising influence while her husband himself was found not guilty of doing anything wrong as private citizen. How can a Governor prevent a private citizen from doing something which was not wrong or illegal?

  • narciso

    We could link the site that shows how Alaskans for Truth, was a cutout by Democratic operatives like Pete Rouse, who was promoted to the Gitmo task force, in part because of it. How Chatman, McLeod
    and a dozen others were tied to the operation. Perkins and Coie, happens to have been the counsel to the Obama campaign, the source of the current White House Counsei, Bauer, who in turn was tied to
    the former Communications Director, Dunn, the one who was suitable impressed by Mao