Palin Legal Fund Violates Ethics Laws (Maybe)
In the wake of Sarah Palin’s bizarre and unexpected resignation halfway through her term as Alaska governor, many speculated that a scandal was in the offing. If this is it, it’s pretty thin:
An independent investigator has found evidence that Gov. Sarah Palin may have violated ethics laws by accepting private donations to pay her legal debts, in the latest legal distraction for the former vice presidential candidate as she prepares to leave office this week.
The report obtained by The Associated Press says Palin is securing unwarranted benefits and receiving improper gifts through the Alaska Fund Trust, set up by supporters.
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.
Lots of politicians have “legal defense funds,” which have always struck me as unseemly but apparently not illegal. Apparently, Alaska law is more strict.
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.”
No doubt and I agree with that as an ethical standard. Then again, ordinary citizens typically don’t have frivolous lawsuits filed against them as payback for political disputes.