Hey, Alaskans! Sarah Palin Owes Us $8720.

3 12 2008

Another day, another ethics challenge for the Palin administration. This one involves (brace yourselves) failure to disclose free gifts on her financial disclosure forms! Does this sound familiar? If you answered “no”, I invite you to use the search feature located in the sidebar and type the words “Ted Stevens”. You’ll have enough reading material on the subject to keep you busy for a week.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Gov. Sarah Palin has added to her financial disclosure forms two free trips that she took nearly two years ago but failed to report. Palin, who was Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate, made the disclosures last month, but after Election Day when she and McCain lost to Barack Obama and Joe Biden. The trips were first revealed in a story by The Associated Press in October.

The free trips were taken in April and May of 2007 and should have been reported within 30 days under state ethics law. The Nov. 17 disclosure forms note that the reports were “not filed timely due to administrative error.”

Bill McAllister, the governor’s spokesman, said this week that the mistakes were made by travel support staff. He said he could not explain the timing of when and how they were caught, but that it was irrelevant because the error was corrected.

Palin, who has criticized state lawmakers for gifts they take, is not facing any sanctions for the late filings, according to Linda Perez, state administrative director. Perez said she was alerted to the matter by McCain’s presidential campaign before the Oct. 14 AP story.

“It wasn’t necessarily the governor’s oversight, nor was she trying to hide anything,” Perez said. “It was a staff oversight.”

In one of the trips, the James B. Hunt Jr. Institute of North Carolina — a nonprofit education policy group — paid the $2,827 cost of Palin’s April 2007 flight and hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz., to attend a four-day conference, according to her report. The group has said it also paid for other governors attending the annual event in recent years.

In May 2007, Palin accepted lodging for herself and her three daughters at Mt. Chilkoot Lodge in the Southeast Alaska town of Skagway. The lodging, valued at $300, was paid for by the owners, including Palin friend and former deputy campaign treasurer Kathy Hosford.

The reports were among recent disclosures released to the AP after a public records request.

Among other gifts Palin reported last month is a June 30 flight valued at $1,187.50 that was paid by the North Slope Borough for Palin and her 7-year-old daughter, Piper, to attend various functions, including a whaling festival in the town of Barrow.

Palin and husband Todd also received travel, food and lodging valued at $4,620.12 to attend a Republican Governors Association event in Texas, in April — gifts that were not reported until August, according to disclosure forms. Palin and the other governors attending the event also received $1,000 Rocky Carroll cowboy boots.

So, in case you missed it, here’s the timeline:

April 2007 – Trip #1

May 2007 – Deadline for reporting Trip #1

June 2007 – Trip #2

July 2007 – Deadline for reporting Trip #2

September or October 2008 – McCain post-nomination vetting process discovers violation.

October 14, 2008 – Associated Press reports on the trips and Palin’s failure to disclose them.

November 2008 – Palin amends her forms to include the gifts, and blames support staff.

And Bill McAllister, Alaska’s own Dana Perrino, has assured us that none of this matters because once the Associated Press blew the lid off it, she went back and fixed it. So, move along everyone, nothing to see here.

Fascinating.

So, does this mean when the IRS finds out you haven’t disclosed certain things on your tax forms, and you find out that they know, and then you go back with a bottle of white out, that means everything is OK?

And I suppose, Mr. McAllister would say that if you rob a bank, and the police show up at your house, everything is OK as long as you give it back?

Can we assume, then, that since Linda Perez tells us that Palin will not be facing sanctions that there is precedent for overlooking these little mistakes? Maybe others have been allowed to slide with nothing more than a “tsk tsk” from the overseeing financial watchdog agency APOC (the Alaskan Public Offices Commission)?

In an interesting little piece of irony, Democratic Senator Elect Mark Begich recently got in to hot water for….wait for it….failure to properly fill out his financial disclosure forms. A complaint was filed against him by the Republican Party, because…well…they can’t stand people who don’t fill out their financial disclosure forms properly.

Mark Begich, the Democratic challenger for U.S. Senate, will pay a $1,420 fine for failing to properly fill out state financial disclosure forms, a campaign spokeswoman said Monday.

A Begich spokeswoman says he corrected all errors and will pay the fine that reflects $10 a day for each day the report was deemed incomplete. [snip]

“We are pleased to have this matter over,” said campaign spokeswoman Julie Hasquet. “We’ll be paying the fine immediately.”

McHugh Pierre [a spokesman for the Alaska Republican Party] said in a statement that he was pleased with the outcome.

“I am very happy that the commission is holding Mayor Begich accountable for his actions,” Pierre said.

Yes, by all means, McHugh Pierre, APOC should hold people accountable for their actions. Mark Begich did something wrong, APOC sanctioned him, he admitted it and immediately paid a fine of $10 a day. So (getting out calculator) that means that give or take $100…Sarah Palin owes about $8720 in fines according to my calculations. Right? I mean, surely we’re not going to fail to hold someone accountable for their actions, are we??

So, why is state administrative director Linda Perez telling us that the Governor is facing no sanctions? Did she get this information from APOC? Did they decide to give her a free pass? Or is this a bit of wishful thinking on the part of the Governor’s office? Is this a bit of Bill McAllister logic that says if you have a library book out past the due date and you accrue a big fine, that as long as you bring the book back, and as long as you are a Republican, you don’t have to pay? I’d be interested to find that out.

And in the meantime, Alaskans for Truth can add something else to their growing list of things for which to hold Sarah Palin accountable.

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Palin’s Audacity of Hype – Coming to a Bookstore Near You!

17 11 2008

Are you ready for the hard-bound copy of The Audacity of Hype?  Well, Sarah Palin may just oblige, at least, if the law allows.  Poised to rake in a cushy book deal of reportedly up to $7 million, Palin may have to weigh her options.  Alaska state law says that a sitting governor can only hold down one job.  So, “best-selling author” may be an illegal line on the resume…at least for the next two years of her term.

From TimesOnline:

She failed to save John McCainfrom presidential election doom, but Sarah Palin, the Republican senator’s controversial running mate, may yet emerge as the saviour of the American publishing industry. Literary agents are queueing up to sign her to a book deal that could earn her up to $7m.

With Barack Obama’s election victory certain to generate dozens of volumes from politicians, strategists and journalists – and with another shelfload of memoirs expected from members of President George W Bush’s administration – Palin’s personal account of her tumultuous introduction to national politics is widely regarded as the book most likely to repay a multi-million-dollar advance.

“She’s poised to make a ton of money,” said Howard Rubenstein, New York’s best-known public relations adviser.

[snip]

With publishers as nervous as everyone else about next year’s economic prospects, Palin’s popularity has become a boon. “Nobody is waiting for George W Bush’s memoirs,” one New York agent noted.

A provision of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act restricts outside employment. It says: “The head of a principal executive department of the state may not accept employment for compensation outside the agency that the executive head serves.”  So, it sounds like Sarah Palin must continue to live the ascetic life of a state governor, and forego the lucrative, glittering life of a celebrated author and multi-millionaire.

Not so fast…

It would mean this, IF you assumed that Palin thought that the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act was actually binding.  If you will recall, the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act is that very same act that was referred to in the Branchflower Report of the Troopergate Investigation by the Alaska Legislature.

Let’s see…..yes, it’s still right here on my desk…under….this pile of papers… (thumbing through).  Ah.   Page 8, section II – Findings: (clears throat and uses ‘official sounding voice’)

Finding Number One – For the reasons explained in section IV of this report, I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.  Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) provides

“The legilature reaffirms that each public officer holds ofice as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust”

(Closes giant 264-page report)  So, there you have it.  If she feels comfortable violating THATone, then a job-on-the-side book deal is cake!  It shouldn’t be long before you can pre-order on Amazon.  I’m guessing it’ll be out in time for her 2010 bid for the Senate, when Lisa Murkowski comes up for re-election.

There’s only one thing that would actually make me buy this book, and it’s not going to happen.  I would consider buying the book if, and only if, Palin wrote it herself.  Or better still, if she dictated it verbatim.  I’d put it on my “humor” shelf, and use it as a constant source of entertainment.

But I have a feeling that once an editor (God help the poor soul) got finished with it, and removed all the “also”s and “too though”s, and the rest of the Palinese word salad, and created actual sentences, with subjects and predicates, and got rid of the syntax mutilation, there wouldn’t be much left to say, or much left to be amusing.  And I can imagine shocked colleagues walking into said editor’s office on Monday morning to find him/her lying on the floor, still seated in the toppled chair, gripping a red pen, and muttering quiet little word bits at the ceiling, staring upward with unblinking eyes, gazing into the literary abyss…”must shore up..work together…solutions also…energy independence…don’tcha know…progress the country…”

More likely, since command of the language completely eludes her, there would be a ghost-writer involved somehow, and that would just be no fun at all.





Palin Will Continue to Steal Cookies, She Says.

10 11 2008

cookies

A newly released interview of Sarah Palin by KTUU and the Anchorage Daily News has left me speechless. I had to listen to it twice before I could really believe it. It’s a little over nine minutes, but it’s so filled with red meat, it’s going to keep me busy all day.

Here’s the first installment:

Remember “per diem gate”? It was one of Sarah’s many “gates” that came to light shortly after her nomination, and was revealed at the same time as “travel gate,” both of which were discovered by the Washington Post back in early September. It was a little embarrassing that we needed the Washington Post to discover our governor’s dirty little financial secrets, but it was better to know than not know. This one may not have incensed the average voter in the rest of the country, but up here, the implications were huge.

Alaskans are not pleased by fiscal shenanigans. We are a frugal people and wasteful spending is not going to win you fans. Fiscal conservatism is the mantra that gets people into office. Remember former Governor Murkowski and his spendy private jet? Part of Palin’s fiscal conservative label came from selling that jet, which had become a symbol of outrageous spending that a sitting governor charged to the state. Here’s the background:

Washington Post – Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a “per diem” allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.The governor also has charged the state for travel expenses to take her children on official out-of-town missions. And her husband, Todd, has billed the state for expenses and a daily allowance for trips he makes on official business for his wife.

Palin, who earns $125,000 a year, claimed and received $16,951 as her allowance, which officials say was permitted because her official “duty station” is Juneau, according to an analysis of her travel documents by The Washington Post.

The governor’s daughters and husband charged the state $43,490 to travel, and many of the trips were between their house in Wasilla and Juneau, the capital city 600 miles away, the documents show.

Now, this is a sore spot with many Alaskans. Palin is not a fan of Juneau. She’s there as little as she can possibly manage. State lawmakers even wore buttons saying “Where’s Sarah?” in protest. Working in Juneau is part of the job. It is, after all, our state’s capitol, even though some wish it wasn’t. There have been a couple attempts to move the capitol from Juneau to Wasilla, or another location that is on the road system. But for right now, travel to Juneau by plane is just part of the package and everyone knows that going in.

From the Juneau Empire:

“Palin has spent little time in Juneau, rarely coming to the state capitol except when the Legislature was in session, and sometimes not even then. During a recent special session called by Palin herself, she faced criticism from several legislators for not showing up personally to push for her agenda. Someone at the Capitol even printed up buttons asking, ‘Where’s Sarah?’”

Many Alaskans figured that the fact that Palin was charging the state a per diem fee, while in the act of shunning our state capitol so she could stay home in Wasilla would be her undoing. THEN when we found out about her children showing up at events when they were uninvited, unexptected, and on the state’s dime, that was just too much. Swanky hotel rooms for her daughters, expensive multiple one-way flights…you could almost feel the fiscal conservatives, and budget watchdogs bristling. She was going to be in biiiiig trouble.

So, right up front in this interview came the question:

Q: One of the things that came up during the campaign is that you charged the state per diem for time spent here in Wasilla. Is that something that you are going to continue to do?

Palin: Oh, we’ve always followed the law and fully disclosed all that and the choice there in many months of the Juneau mansion being replumbed and um all the …all the improvements being made in the infrastructure in the Juneau house where we weren’t gonna be there anyway, knowing that in the end it would have cost the state more money to do what other governors had done and that is either charge the state for hotel rooms or the state renting an apartment like they did for Governor Murkowski. We said no, we just won’t sell our house knowing that we’re going to spend quite a bit of time here, especially those months when the remodels were taking place in the Governor’s mansion, and we would disclose my per diem. We wouldn’t try to hide it. But as long as this is about full disclosure, not trying to take anything from the state, just trying to do my job and part of my job is with the first family, having them with me at some of these events. I’m going to continue to do my job, and my family is going to continue to be a part of it.

She’d rather work from home, so she did. She says It would have cost the state more to have her working in Juneau where her actual job was located, but she didn’t feel like being in Juneau, so she decided to work from elsewhere, and charge the state for meals and incidental traveling expenses despite the fact she was eating in her own kitchen and sleeping in her own bed. And she charged the state for travel expenses to stay home. And somehow this is OK. And the state of Alaska paying for Bristol’s fancy New York hotel and over $20,000 in family travel? That’s OK too.

It was as though Sarah was caught with her hand in the cookie jar when mom and dad walked into the kitchen and turned on the light. “What do you have to say for yourself, Sarah?” ask Mom & Dad. “Well, Mom and Dad, I’m not doing anything wrong, and I’m fully disclosing the fact that I’m taking cookies, and I’m going to continue to do that.” Huh? This is one of those moments as a parent when you have to think long and hard about how you react, because there’s obviously a fundamental lack of understanding about who is in charge, and how this relationship works.

So…..what do Mom and Dad (the State Legislature) do? If you listen to legislators, they’re sounding awfully concilliatory lately, and it’s making those who want to hold Palin accountable uneasy to say the least. I’ve heard Democratic legislators saying that we all need to work together for the good of the state, and they’ve worked with Sarah in the past, and we all need to march ahead and let the healing begin, and so on. I’ve heard them squirm around about the makeup of the new Legislature, and that there aren’t as many Democrats as they would have liked. I’ve heard them cite the fact that Alaska voters have given Palin a 61% approval rating as evidenced by how many voted for the McCain-Palin ticket. In other words, the Alaska State Legislature sounds an awful lot like the U.S. House of Representatives under George W. Bush. If only things were different, we could hold him accountable to the law….sigh….

I am assuming that all members of the Legislature will be watching this video, and I hope that each and every one of them realizes what it is. It is a dare. As a matter of fact, it’s a double-dog-dare. The Governor has just said that she is going to continue being unethical, and she’s going to do it right. in. your. face. “What are YOU going to do about it?” says the child with her hand in the cookie jar.

So, what are you going to do about it, Mom and Dad Legislature? You have two choices.

1) Well…..OK, honey. But you really shouldn’t have done that. You can keep taking cookies but you just need to let Mommy and Daddy know first, OK? Kiss on forehead.

2) Listen young lady. We don’t need any of your backtalk. Put that cookie down and go to your room because we need to have a serious conversation.

It’s your choice Legislature. Alaskans are tired of corruption. And don’t forget that Palin may still have a 60% approval rating, but before her VP run, it was over 80%. The more we know, the less we like. And Alaska voters don’t get to vote on the law. It’s not a popularity contest to see who has to obey the law and who doesn’t. Dealing with law is YOUR job. That’s why we put you there.

I hope there are some strong statements forthcoming from our elected officials. I don’t think I voted to have representation that gets cowed by a kid who just got nailed swiping cookies.

(More to come on this interview.)

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Palin’s “Travelgate” Swings Open – Let the Fallout Begin!

29 10 2008

You know at the DMV, or the deli, when you have to pull one of those little ticket things off the roll, so you know where you are in line? They need to install one of those at the Department of Law in Alaska.

There is so much we never knew about our Governor. Nothing like being under the national magnifying glass, accompanied by a mass influx of some of the best investigative journalists in the world, to properly vet a candidate.

It feels like we were just hanging out at home, minding our business, and all of a sudden several hundred FBI agents descended on our house with fine-toothed combs, and electronic devices, and fingerprint gathering tools. We find out we may have been the victim of a crime and we didn’t even know it! Go figure.

Well, those metaphorical FBI agents (aka journalists) did a really good job. They even looked under the bed, and in the back of the sock drawer. They looked in the freezer, and they found that secret cubbyhole under the floorboards. They may not have found everything, but they sure made us think about all those other places we might look, now that we know.

Now that all these little Sarah Palin scandals have been excavated by the national press, there they lie. Right there on our dining room table with little color-coded evidence tags. They just sit, waiting for someone to come along, pick one up, examine it and say, “Heeeey. I didn’t vote for this!”

We were all promised “open, honest and transparent” government from Sarah Palin, and we find, to our amazement that what we actually got was a big steaming pile of just the opposite. Time to start taking numbers.

The first one to pull his ticket off the roll is Frank Gwartney, a retired lineman who lives in here in Anchorage. Let’s call him “Frank the Retired Lineman”. It makes him sound like one of those people Palin says she’s accountable to. He is “tired of the hypocrisy that exists in Government,” and thinks, “people need to know the truth.” This reminds us of that famous pre-VP quote that defined Sarah Palin’s rise to Governorship, “Hold me accountable.” Apparently, Frank was listening.

The complaint against Governor Palin, alleges Misuse of Official Position: “Gov. Palin attempted to and in fact did use her official position for personal gain by securing unwarranted benefits for her daughters…” All the allegations contained in the complaint are related to state reimbursed travel.

In Alaska, ethics complaints filed against the Governor are confidential. “We can neither confirm nor refute that a complaint has been filed against Governor Sarah Palin. Any complaint remains confidential unless the person being charged waives confidentiality or if the complaint progresses to the state of probable cause,” Assistant District Attorney, Dave Jones told CBS News.

Bristol, Piper and Willow, Palin’s daughters, accrued $32,629 in travel expenses while Palin’s husband Todd raked up $22,174 – all billed to the state for a total of $54,803.00.

“The Governor’s office has expended $54,803.00 in Alaska state dollars for family travel since December 2006,” according to the Governor’s Administrative Services Director, Linda Perez. “The documentation related to family travel has changed and you have to keep in mind that the governor and her family are very popular,” added Perez.

Sharon Leighow, Deputy Communications Director, said “Governor Palin followed state policy allowing governors to charge for their children’s travel and there’s also the expectation that the first family participate in community activities across the state.”

We all know the drill. Here’s what happens next. Attorney General Talis Colberg will refer the complaint to…..The Personnel Board. Those guys are busy these days! Still wrestling with the second incarnation of the Troopergate investigation, they now have another item on their expanding “To Do” list. Then the board decides if the conduct would violate the ethics ace if it were found to be true. If it would, then they go through the process of hiring an independent investigator. Much happens out of the spotlight, but after interviews, and evidence gathering, and when the board reaches a decision, they make recommendations to impose penalties, and/or disciplinary action. The process may take several weeks, or several months.

Governor Palin would be advised to get used to this. Grassroots discontent can be a formidable thing. You never know who will show up to pull the next ticket. Frank Gwartney? Who’s that guy?  The answer is:  The first guy in line.

Anyone worried that Alaska political junkies will have nothing to talk about after this election can rest easy.

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