Palin Took Per Diem for Each Day!
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.
So, Palin claimed a per diem while traveling on state business and also claimed official expenses when bringing her family along on such trips? Isn’t that rather, um, normal?
David Bernstein observes,
You have to read the article carefully to figure this out, but what the story ultimately reveals is that Palin (a) billed the state for most expenses allowed by law, including per diem when she stayed in her own home (her “duty station” was the state capitol of Juneau) in Wasilla; (b) didn’t bill the state for other expenses, when she could have done so lawfully, such as per diems for her children; and (c) spent a lot less money on expenses than did her predecessor, especially on travel and by ridding herself of the state’s personal chef. [FWIW, she apparently maintained two residences, the governor’s mansion in Juneau, where assumedly she didn’t get a per diem (but where her predecessor had a personal chef), and Wasilla, from which she commuted to Anchorage for work when the legislature wasn’t in session.
But, but she was staying at her own home? How do you claim per diem for that?!
A glance at the expense report reproduced on the Post’s website makes it clear that she requested per diem for her daily expenses, but not for lodging, and that she apparently wrote “lodging–own home” only to explain why she wasn’t requesting hotel expenses. One almost wonders whether the author of the story understands what a “per diem” is; the story notes that Palin rarely charged the state for meals when in Wasilla and Anchorage, but of course she didn’t, because she instead just asked for the per diem!
Indeed, if one looks at the State of Alaska Per Diem rates sheet [PDF] (July 2008) it explicitly provides that even relatively low level employees are entitled not only to per diem but to reimbursement of commuting costs if “they return to their residence on their own time (e.g., weekends)” and that they are entitled to per diem even for “at-home meetings” for which “they receive no per diem for lodging.”
Bernstein wonders “whether the Post has several reporters looking over Joe Biden’s expense reports. Does he bill the government for his daily roundtrip to Delaware? How many ‘fact-finding missions’ has he participated in annually during his Senate career?”
Indeed. Perhaps they’re responding to HuffPo’s Adam McKay, who attributes McCain’s recent rise in the polls to the fact that the press isn’t doing their duty in acting as a surrogate for the Democrats.