July 9th, 2009
10:45 AM ET
14 years ago

Ethics complaints still dog Palin

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/07/palin.future/art.palin.gi.jpg caption="Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin plans to step down in late July."]ANCHORAGE, Alaska (CNN) - If Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin thought her decision to step down might end ethics accusations against her, she quickly found out she was wrong.

Just days after her bombshell resignation announcement, a new ethics complaint was filed with state authorities arguing that she should not be able to claim per diem funds when she stays at her Wasilla, Alaska, home instead of Anchorage or Juneau, where she has offices. The complaint says she was charging the state when she stayed in Wasilla and commuted to her offices.

The governor's mansion is located in Juneau.

Palin claims she is the target of the "politics of personal destruction," as she and some staff members face 19 filings regarding allegations of ethical violations.

"It doesn't cost the critics anything to file frivolous lawsuits or ethics violation charges. It costs our state such a great deal - thousands of staff hours, millions of dollars in public resources that aren't going to things that it should be going to," Palin told CNN. "We haven't violated the ethics code."

The pressure and financial cost of such ethical investigations are a major reason cited by the governor in her decision not to finish her term. She said her family is facing more than $500,000 in legal fees and has set up a legal defense fund to help defray the costs.

Many of the complaints have been dismissed. But Palin last month reimbursed the state more than $8,000 for travel expenses for nine trips, accompanied by her children, after the state paid for them. Another inquiry led to some new ethics training for a staff member.

In all, state officials say they have spent $1,963,840 to answer records requests from the ethics filings and to respond in other ways to them. Records show that since January 1, 2008, the state has spent $296,043 on such investigations.

Of these inquiries, the one that cost the most and drew the most attention was centered on whether Palin inappropriately fired the state's director of public safety. This complaint had been filed weeks before Palin's run for vice president.

The public safety director claimed he was let go because of his refusal to fire a state trooper who was Palin's former brother-in-law and who was locked in a bitter divorce and custody battle with the governor's sister.

Palin and her supporters argued it was because the public safety director was insubordinate.

An independent counsel found she had a right to fire him, but in doing so had violated a state ethics law. It found she had abused the powers of her office by pressuring employees to get the trooper fired.

Although the governor and her supporters have criticized the investigations, Andree McLeod, who has filed four complaints against Palin, thinks they are entirely appropriate.

"I don't really care what other people think. I am holding the governor accountable. Other people's ignorance is not going to stymie me," McLeod told CNN, surrounded by stacks of state documents she has collected from filing information requests and ethics complaints.

"I am exercising my right to get these public records to discover what Sarah Palin is up to," McLeod said.

McLeod, a registered Republican, has filed four complaints, including one alleging a friend of Palin's was given preferential treatment in getting a state job. That filing was dismissed by a state board which investigates the claims.

McLeod has also filed two lawsuits, including one regarding whether it was appropriate for state business to be discussed using private e-mail addresses.

When ethics complaints are filed against the governor or her staff, the state has to hire an independent counsel to investigate the claims to avoid conflict of interest.

Among other claims against Palin cite her wearing an Arctic Cat logo on a piece of clothing during a snowmobile race as a conflict of interest and another contending an interview she did after the presidential election in her state office was inappropriate. Those were dismissed.

James Muller, a political science professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, told CNN that, "Some of [the complaints against Palin] are clearly fanciful, farcical.

"I think most of these ethical complaints are trivial. Almost all have been dismissed by the various levels of review that have taken them on," Muller said.

Any filings already in process before she leaves office will be concluded.

Palin had signed a law making it easier to file such complaints.

"She'd been pushing for that even before she was governor. To have it used in this way, to have it abused in the manner that it was is shameful. It's much like the boy who cried 'wolf,' " Thomas Van Flein, Palin's attorney, told CNN.

Filed under: Sarah Palin
soundoff (171 Responses)
  1. SLM

    Cheez Wiz – Real intelligent comment you got there!! Can't stand a normal down to earth person, you prefer great telepromter speaker.

    July 9, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  2. Jim

    She just needs to make some money and move on. As a money making Republican myself why not. Write a book and do the speaking gig and rake it in. Funny how Obama's wife and kids can take sightseeing tours on jets that take $10K an hour to operate and not a word is spoken. How telling.

    July 9, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  3. John

    Palin should counter sue the wolves that are going after her. They know she is a political giant in the country and they are scared of her.

    July 9, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  4. Charm

    So much news worthy events going on around the world and we're still reading about this non-relevant fruit cake...

    July 9, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  5. MIke

    I think she got in way over her head. If McCain had picked Ridge, who grew up poor in a project, and was a Marine hero, he would have won. Oh? I forgot. Ridge was Pro Choice and the Right told McCain they would stay home. The Right is so wrong so often it's funny. The real problem with Sarah is her lack of fundamental knowledge about the Constiution, the Supreme Court, important cases other than Roe v. Wade [Sarah: go back to Wasila Community College and learn about Brown v. Bd. of Ed and Miranda and Marbury v. Madison, etc]. We need a national leader who is bright, articulate and who cares about ALL of us. Let's all pray no harm comes to this President.

    July 9, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  6. AlwaysThinking

    Barbara: If Palin wants to be left alone, she should choose a less public profession than politician. It's nuts to speak publically, propose ideas and criticize others and not expect any feedback.

    We have the First Amendment, which includes freedom of speech and the press. These provisions were explicitly stated in our Constitution to guarantee a ruling monarch, religious figure or military leader could not control the people.

    If Sarah Palin wants to be able to say and do as she pleases without consequence, then she either needs to retire from public life or go set herself up as the leader of an autocratic country. (May if Alaska sucedes, they'll elect her Queen.)

    July 9, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  7. Shucks

    She has brought this all on her own with her self righteous indignation. Her constant whining about being picked on is just fodder for people out to get her. Only problem is before she was a candidate for VP, noone cared a rats behind what happened in Alaska including it's politics. Now her ethics are being called into question every day. I guess she should have been vetted a little better last year. Don'tcha think? wink wink.

    July 9, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  8. AlwaysThinking

    The courts will figure out whether these allegations are true. Part and parcel of being a politician. If you can't stand the heat ...

    July 9, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  9. Jo

    Where is she staying now? Is Alaska paying for her move of items from the office where she work to her home?

    July 9, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  10. AlwaysThinking

    If she's innocent, she's got nothing to worry about and should quit complaining. Baseless claims generally get dismissed pretty quickly.

    Geez, she's a whiner!

    July 9, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  11. david

    palin is a slippery slope. no one will ever be able to nail her on any wrong doing, not alaskan law enforcement, not the fbi, not the cia.

    July 9, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  12. donttreadonme

    This is how the dems deal with people they don't agree with? They nitpick them out of office over "small potatoes."

    Funny they are so concerned about her spending while Obama spends 888 billion in stimulus money. Most of which is going to pay back his political allies. Then he brings his entire family all over the world.

    Make any excuses you want, the behavior by these dems is disgusting and you really have no high ground in this argument!

    July 9, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  13. beth

    Poor Sarah, once again blaming someone for coming after her...she's so pathetic

    July 9, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  14. Jim in San Mateo

    Poor, poor Sarah. She opens her mouth and everyone jumps down her throat. Why? It's just too easy. If she had anything intelligent to say, it wouldn't matter, but unfortunately, she comes across as unwitting, unintelligent and scatter-brained. Neither she, nor her handlers know how to stage a news conference and it shows.

    July 9, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  15. maf

    It is up to a greater power than just Palin stating "we haven't violated the ethics code." We have come to know Sarah and when Sarah speaks, it isn't worth much.

    How can you be a good point guard when you quit at the start of the second half of the game (term)? Sarah Palin would be benched if I was coaching. She likely wouldn't win another term as governor anyway, so why play? What a disgrace!

    July 9, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  16. Once You Vote Black

    The GOP has been beaten to a stand still. They have been whooped in the Senate and trounced in the House. The talent differential is mind boggling. Obama's victory was a landslide when you consider a Jr. Sen. destroyed a Sr. Sen. who is a war hero. And now we are taking over the Court. This is why the GOP is so happy to see that only 70% of the voters said said the president is a strong and decisive leader instead of 80%. You know you are a looser when your only argument for why you should be elected is because the other guys have everything. No matter how good or bad Obama does in office the right will never be able to erase the fact that a Blackman stomped the entire GOP by not only beating a nice clean war hero, but also ushered in a congress with a bulletproof majority! You guys go whooped

    July 9, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  17. Independent

    Geez...no wonder the Republicans are so religious. They have sins to confess on a daily basis.

    July 9, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  18. Thomas

    It is not like random people are suddenly making stuff up and causing these ethic investigations. Before an investigation starts there has to be some evidence that supports a violation.

    I can't just say "hey I think Sara is unethical" and boom there is another costly investigation. No I need to offer up some evidence before an investigation will be started.

    July 9, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  19. Chaco

    She covertly 'moved' the capitol to Anchorage and maintains her office there, only visiting Juneau when absolutely necessary. So she has a 40 mile commute from her home in Wasilla. The per diem system set up in Alaska is meant for workers who must travel outside of their home base and this just doesn't count. Sorry, Sarah, but I've thought all along that you were cheating when you claim per diem while in Wasilla. It's just wrong and you should have stopped it when you set up shop so close to home.

    July 9, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  20. johnnie

    come on ,it is a no brainer that reason sara palin resigned is because she is corrupt,more will come out each day.why is this a news flash, this former gov. is finished,and so the gop. we are tired of lies and nonsense,the gop is the playground party of fools. 2010 a landslide for the party of the people,(the obamacrats).

    July 9, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  21. Steve in Las Vegas,NV

    Winners NEVER quit, quitters NEVER win! Ya Betcha..wink wink

    July 9, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  22. Diane

    First, I fear that Palin will actually run for president in 2012 mainly because she would make a complete joke out of America.

    However, she would make it SO MUCH EASIER for people to re-elect Obama even if he could not achieve all of his promises in his first term.

    This woman is so thick-skinned that no matter what you do I can guarantee she will not disappear. She believes in the significance of her existence in politics. "Significance"? Well she does make me laugh, and she does make you realize how important it is to pick a candidate with intellect. So whatever she says or represents, just intelligently believe in the opposite or else you might end up in the same boat as this obnoxious lady.

    July 9, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  23. Diane

    Okay, I don't like Sarah Palin – never have and probably never will, but even I agree that some of these "ethics" violations are STUPID. I do believe that Governor Palin should not get per diem funds for choosing to live in Wasilla instead of Juneau. That was her choice and she should accept those expenses as her own. That being said – if the constitution of Alaska allows a sitting governor to live elsewhere other than the capitol, then the state might have to eat those funds. One thing I strongly believe is that if an ethics violation is brought, such as the outrageous one about her wearing a jacket with a logo, then the person who brought the violation should have to pay the legal fees if the governor is cleared of the charges. Let's pick our battles folks. There is no reason that the taxpayers should pay for the governor's misdeeds, nor should the governor have to pay for a taxpayer's petty complaints.

    July 9, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  24. Roy

    It is very ironic that when this woman breaks ethics laws......she is defended by the GOP lovers as 'persecuted' and 'a victim of the horrible liberal press'.....even though she is billing the state for personal expenses.........yet the same people will decry any Democrat they suspect of doing the exact same action......

    These GOP Palin lovers should realize that by the time she tries to run for President (if she is that selfishly motivated at the expense of the GOP).......she will be dragging more baggage behind her than Jacob Marley's chain he forged in life in Dicken's Christmas Carol! Beware the Baggage!

    July 9, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  25. Mental midgit from phoenix

    I think shes the greatest thing since cornbread.

    July 9, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
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