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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Possible Investigation of Criminal Witness Tampering in Troopergate!

20 10 2008

Well, well, well. Here’s yet another subplot in the saga that is Troopergate. Remember how witnesses, including state employees, Todd Palin and Sarah Palin herself agreed to cooperate fully with the Legislative investigation of Troopergate? If you don’t remember, it’s because that was beFORE August 29th, when Palin was selected to be John McCain’s running mate. It was a whole different world back then. That’s when this investigation made sense to Alaskans, and when we believed the word of our Governor. Now? Not so much.

Ten witnesses, including the Governor’s husband Todd, defied subpoenas to testify before the Legislative Council. When did this mysterious change of heart occur?

Once again, we need to rely on the courage and conviction of the bipartisan Legislative Council, and the likes of Representatives Les Gara to keep the Governor and her administration (including Attorney General Talis Colberg) honest. After the flock of McCain lawyers descended on our sleepy little hamlet, all the rules changed. Now, Les Gara and Audie Holloway want to know WHY. Good question.

ANCHORAGE — Today an Alaska legislator called on the State’s Attorney General to appoint an independent investigator to look into possible criminal witness tampering by McCain-Palin campaign staff in Alaska. Rep. Gara’s call came at the suggestion of the Director of the Alaska State Troopers, [Col. Audie Holloway], who called the potential of witness tampering matter “serious.”

But, as we know, these witnesses did eventually testify in writing, just days before the Legislative Council released the findings of Independent Investigator Stephen Branchflower. Does this make it all better? No.

Their later decision to submit to written questions, after failing to show up for their subpoenas, doesn’t cure this violation, or any criminal conduct by any person who attempted to induce those witnesses from showing for their subpoenas. Complying with the law after breaking it doesn’t excuse a criminal violation. If any person attempted to induce a witness to fail to show for a subpoena, that witness’ later cooperation, after failing to show for the subpoena, doesn’t cure the criminal conduct. (from attached letter to AG Talis Colberg from Rep. Les Gara)

Talis Colberg, who is under considerable public pressure to resign as Attorney General for how he handled these subpoenas, has something new on his list of things that won’t go away. Namely:

Alaska Statute 11.56.545 –

“(a)Tampering with a witness in the second degree: A person commits the crime of tampering with a witness in the second degree if the person knowingly induces or attempts to induce a witness to be absent from an official proceeding, other than a judicial proceeding, to which the witness has been summoned. (b) Tampering with a witness in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.

AS 11.56.540 has similar elements, and is a felony.
The ball is in the court of the Department of Law.

Letter from Les Gara to Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg: 10202008-witness-tampering-independent-investigator

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Troopergate I Shares Documents With Troopergate II

18 10 2008
Sen. President Lyda Green and the Giant Binder of Confidentiality.

Sen. President Lyda Green and the Giant Binder of Confidentiality.

Think of it as a changing of the guard.  The first Troopergate investigation (the one from the Alaska Legislature) has concluded, finding that although Palin was within her legal rights to fire Walt Monegan, the Commissioner of Public Safety, she DID abuse her power and violate the state’s ethics code. 

The new guard is another investigation, prompted by Palin herself, from the Personnel Board.  Presumably Palin went to the extraordinary lengths of filing an ethics complaint against herself because she felt that the Personnel Board would be a friendlier investigative body.  This may or may not be so.  Crackerjack Anchorage prosecutor (and Democrat) Tim Petumenos has been hired by the board as the special investigator. 

Petumenos has asked the Legislative Council to turn over the confidential information from their special investigator, Stephen Branchflower.  The Legislative Council made public a 263-page tome with the snappy title: “Report of the Investigation of the Circumstances Surrounding the Termination of Former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan and Potential Abuses of Power and/or Improper Actions by Members of Governor Sarah Palin’s Administration, Volume I, Public Report.”  It’s Volume 2 we’re talking about.

Volume 2 makes Volume 1 look like a flimsy paperback, and contains information utilized to come to the conclusions that were stated in the public report. Everything in Volume 2, is not for public consumption.   I didn’t even know they made binders that big.

So, meanwhile, the Personnel Board and its investigation, which operates out of the public eye, marches on.  We don’t know when they will be finished, we don’t know when they will release the report, and we don’t know what the report will say.  But every once in a while, like a surfacing whale,  we catch a glimpse of this mysterious investigation, before it sinks out of sight again.  And we wait.

Media frenzy as the Legislative Council Releases the Branchflower Report.

Media frenzy as the Legislative Council Releases the Branchflower Report.

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Countdown to Truth – Sarah Proclaims Own Innocence! Real Report Due Out Tomorrow.

9 10 2008

More developments in the Troopergate story.

Palin has become very fond of the preemptive strike.  Once again, in a less than shocking pre-emptive power play, Governor Palin’s Personnel Board has concluded Palin’s investigation of herself.  That’s right, she decided to just jump right in there and investigate herself, because the bipartisan Legislative investigation just couldn’t be impartial.  Like her.

So, drumroll please……Palin has declared herself INNOCENT!  She’s done nothing wrong!  Boy that was a nail-biter. 

But now, we leave Sarah’s Fantasy Land and come back to reality.  After overcoming every hurdle, every stonewalling tactic and every flimsy legal challenge imaginable, the report is in the hands of Legislators.   Tomorrow, the Alaska Legislative Council will decide what to do with the results of the real investigation – the one that John McCain and Sarah Palin would rather you not see.  For weeks now, Special Investigator Stephen Branchflower has been investigating Palin’s firing of the Commissioner of Public Safety, Walt Monegan to see if she abused her power as governor to fire him because he, in turn, would not fire her ex-brother in law because of a family squabble.  Questions were also asked about the Palins’ role in what appears to be interference in a workers compensation claim filed by the ex-brother-in-law, Trooper Michael Wooten.

But before the report is released, the Legislative Council must vote to do so.  There is EXTREME pressure coming from very high in the Republican Party to keep this report from coming out.  If this report is released to the public tomorrow, it will be because of the principled bravery of a majority of members of the Legislative Council, particularly the Republicans who will have had to stand up to their own party.  And that’s where we stand.

Meanwhile, on a lighter note…

This brings us to our final installment of the Countdown to Truth, and the Top 10 Reasons the report should be released:

10: Maybe once the report comes out people will stop naming their pitbulls “Sarah” and making them wear lipstick.  Because that is just all kinds of wrong.

 

 

9: It will give Meg Stapleton the opportunity to stop lying about Walt Monegan and Troopergate, and to start lying about why Sarah Palin got her ass handed to her in the debate.

 

8: If it doesn’t come out then what will Alaska Progressive bloggers write about all weekend?

 

7: This investigation has cost Alaskans $100,000. The last time Alaskans spent that kind of money with nothing to show for it, was on exotic dancers and cocaine back in the oil drenched 1980’s.

 

6: Because the McCain campaign does not want the report to be made public, and when was the last time ANYBODY told Alaskans not to do something and we listened?

 

5: Once this report is finally out we can all stop pretending to like Dan Fagan.

 

4: The report will undoubtedly convince the Palins that they need to return home where surely they will be inspired to add yet another offspring to their brood, perhaps this one to be named “Phlegm Wingnut Palin”?

 

3: It will allow Alaskans to stop focusing on this distraction and get back to watching for Russians trying to come over the border so that we can shoo them back to where they belong.

 

2: Once it is released perhaps it can be given as reading material to poor little Bristol Palin who apparently is secreted, along with Cathy Baldwin-Johnson and hockey stud Levi Johnston, in a secret vault deep under the White House, or in a bear cache in the wilds of Wasilla, until her mother’s doomed run for Vice President comes to an end.

 

1: It will clear the name of Walt Monegan and make his mother, possibly the sweetest woman in Alaska , very happy.

 So this is the last day to send your emails urging that the report be released.  The Legislative Council will meet tomorrow at 9:00am Alaska time (1:00pm EST, 10:00am PST).  At this point it really could go either way.  Great forces are at work here, and we’ll have to just wait and see.  Thanks to all who have been helping from near and far.

Email addresses are in the comments.

 (h/t to Gryphen, our Top 10 Guy)

 





Supreme Court Refuses to Block Troopergate Investigation!

9 10 2008

(AKMuckraker slumps down in the chair with a giant exhale of breath, immediately followed by a rush of feel-good brain chemicals)

OK, I kept telling myself that I wasn’t worried.  I trust the Alaska Supreme Court.  I have lawyer friends who told me there was nothing to worry about.  And I very convincingly told others I wasn’t worried.  But after hearing the good news, I realize that….yes….I was worried.

Whew.

The Alaska Supreme Court today rejected an attempt by a group of six Republican legislators to shut down the Legislature’s investigation of Gov. Sarah Palin.

The ruling means that Steve Branchflower, the investigator hired by the Legislative Council, will release his report as scheduled on Friday.

Read the ruling HERE.

An opinion from the court will follow.

This is one hurdle overcome, but remember, the Legislative Council still needs to vote to release the results of the report to the public.  So if you’re emailing those Legislators, keep it coming.  Visit Alaskans for Truth for details and emails.





Buy That Man a Beer. Keith Olbermann on Hockey Moms in Glass Houses.

6 10 2008

I don’t know what I can possibly add to this, exept to say, “THANK you.” That felt good.





State Employees Will Now Testify in Troopergate Probe.

5 10 2008

The story goes that if you put a frog in a pot, and turn up the heat slowly enough, the frog will not realize it’s being cooked until it’s too late.  But if you turn up the heat suddenly, it will spring to its senses and leap out of the pot, thus saving its life.  I give you, Alaska State Attorney General Talis Colberg.

Talis Colberg, the erstwhile Mat-Su Valley lawyer specializing in worker’s compensation claims, found himself hitched to Sarah Palin’s rising star.  When she was tapped to be McCain’s running mate, his reaction was “Wow. I work for her.”  >>>>HOCKEY BUZZER<<<<<  Actually, the Attorney General is supposed to be working for the people of Alaska.  To help our Governor and our AG remember this, a grass roots group spontaneously emerged, calling themselves Alaskans for Truth.

This group, organized a rally in part to demand the resignation of Talis Colberg for telling state employees that they didn’t need to comply with legislative subpoenas issued as part of the ethics investigation that has become known as “Troopergate.”  This smacked a little too much of Alberto Gonzales and Harriet Meiers for many Alaskans, and 2000 signatures were toted down to the Governor’s Anchorage office and presented to Palin spokesman Bill McAllister, (when Lt. Governor Sean Parnell chose to remain in the comfort and safety of his office).

The rally and the petition drop-off were covered quite well by our local news media, and thanks to this and the efforts of several determined and ticked-off bloggers, it got some national play as well.  Multiple complaints have been filed against Colberg to the Alaska Bar, and despite a lawsuit claiming the subpoenas are illegitimate, a judge’s ruling this week said, basically, “I don’t think so.”  An emergency appeal was filed with the Alaska Supreme Court which will be heard this coming Wednesday.

So there’s the set up for you.  Talis Colberg = frog.  Pot of water = Blissfully lounging in Palinworld and feeling all invincible.  Flame turned suddenly up to the highest setting = Alaskans for Truth + media + the law.

It seems as though the old adage has worked, because Colberg has suddenly launched himself out of the pot, and landed squarely on his soggy rump.  Seems like those seven state employees who were told by Colberg that showing up was optional, have had a change of heart.

All seven employees have decided, in light of Superior Court Judge Peter Michalski’s decision, to cooperate with the legislative investigation, according to a statement today from Colberg’s office.

“Despite my initial concerns about the subpoenas, we respect the court’s decision to defer to the Legislature,” Colberg said. “We are working with Senator Hollis French to arrange for the testimony of the seven state employee plaintiffs.”

How about that… Can a frog tuck its tail between its legs?

Meanwhile, Alaska First Dude Todd Palin is now back in Alaska.  He has agreed to testify to the other investigation into Troopergate by the State Personnel board.  Palin initiated this investigation of herself, claiming that the legitimate investigation which came about through unanimous, bipartisan approval had become “political” once she joined the McCain ticket.  Will the Supreme Court ruling have any affect on whether Todd has a change of heart and testifies to the Legislative Council?  And how much will this delay the report? Further developments are anyone’s guess.