The obligatory “Palin’s legal defense fund may violate ethics laws” post; Update: Report added; Update: Palin issues statement
posted at 6:15 pm on July 21, 2009 by Allahpundit
This one seems to be distinct from the umpteen frivolous ethics complaints filed against her given that there’s actually been a finding by a Personnel Board investigator of “probable cause” to believe she did something wrong. Even so, I’ve been informed on Twitter that it constitutes “Palin Derangement Syndrome” to so much as post on this, so apologies for not ignoring/suppressing the story and sparing you the “derangement.”
An investigator for the state Personnel Board says in his July 14 report that there is probable cause to believe Palin used or attempted to use her official position for personal gain because she authorized the creation of the trust as the “official” legal defense fund.
The practical effect of the ruling on Palin will be more financial than anything else. The report recommends that Palin refuse to accept payment from the defense fund, and that the complaint be resolved without a formal hearing before the Alaska Personnel Board…
In his report, attorney Thomas Daniel said his interpretation of the ethics act is consistent with common sense.
An ordinary citizen facing legal charges is not likely to be able to generate donations to a legal defense fund, he wrote. “In contrast, Governor Palin is able to generate donations because of the fact that she is a public official and a public figure. Were it not for the fact that she is governor and a national political figure, it is unlikely that many citizens would donate money to her legal defense fund.”
I’m not sure I have this straight, but are they actually claiming that the use of the word “official” on the fund website is designed to make people think it’s state-supported? See, e.g., Sections 39.52.120 and 39.52.130 of the state’s Executive Branch Ethics Act for details. If so, that’s moronic for two reasons. One, no one’s donating to Palin because she’s the governor; they’re donating to her because she’s Sarah Palin. Two, “official” obviously isn’t a reference to her position but to the fact that there have been other defense funds organized for her by well-meaning grassroots Palin fans — funds from which Palin’s legally prohibited from accepting money. Calling her site “official” is just her way of letting supporters know that this is the real, honest-to-goodness, Palin-endorsed defense fund.
As for the argument that she wouldn’t be getting donations if not for the fact that she’s governor, that’s true — but of course she wouldn’t be getting complaints filed against her, either. Her fund website goes out of its way, in fact, to list defense funds organized by other politicians to demonstrate that she’s not doing anything out of the ordinary. If she had set up the site to raise money to build a new wing of her house or something, I’d see the objection; I might even see it if she’d been found guilty of a bunch of ethics violations and was now looking to Palinistas to pick up the tab. As it is, all she’s doing is looking for help in defending herself against frivolous harassment by political opponents. I honestly don’t get what the issue is here.
Update: Don’t believe the hype, tweets Palin:
Re inaccurate story floating re:ethics violation/Legal Defense Fund;matter is still pending;new info was just requested even;no final report
Update: Here’s the PDF of the report. It’s only nine pages long and worth reading in full because the gist of it is that legal defense funds simply aren’t permissible under the Alaska ethics act. It’s not that she’s doing anything underhanded or differently from the Clintons or John Kerry or any federal official; it’s just that Alaska doesn’t allow the governor to accept money that’s in any way connected with the performance of her duties as governor. In fact, on page 7, the investigator goes out of his way to say that Alaska’s system is FUBAR, especially with respect to not reimbursing the governor for defending herself against frivolous complaints, but since he can only apply the law as written, that’s what he has to do. His recommendation for “corrective action”: Having Palin seek reimbursement from Alaska.
Exit question: Who leaked this, ahem, “confidential” report?
Update: Palin fires back on Facebook:
“I find the notion that I have taken any action pertaining to the legal defense trust fund misguided and factually in error. I am informed that this fund was created by experienced attorneys in DC and was modeled after other similar funds established for senators and others. The fund itself was not created by me nor is it controlled by me. Neither I nor my lawyer has received a penny from this fund, and I am informed the Trustee was withholding any action or payment pending final resolution with the Personnel Board. This is the hallmark of legal compliance and prudent conduct.
In short, I have not ‘acted’ relative to the defense fund and it is misleading to say I have. I have no doubt that the Trust will welcome guidance by the Board, as do we all, but it is my understanding that this matter was not resolved and the complainant’s violation of law has served to mislead the public and prejudice a fair review of this matter.”