Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is no stranger to filing ethics complaints. She filed ethics complaints against co-workers when she worked in the Frank Murkowski administration. Before she was governor, she filed piles of complaints against Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten. Since she has been governor, she has filed at least one ethics complaint against herself.
Palin claims that the ethics complaint filed by Frank Gwartney, protesting thousands of dollars the Palins collected in state-provided travel benefits, was dismissed in her favor. She states that she returned almost $10,000.00 in illegally taken travel funds, and is paying her own legal expenses, and the State of Alaska's expenses, in that matter "voluntarily."
The governor is also claiming she has accrued over a half a million dollars in legal expenses because of "meritless ethics complaints," but has provided no proof whatsoever that this is actually the case. And as for a breakdown on which cases have been billed, and for how much, I doubt that information qualifies in her mind as being part of her "open and transparent" universe.
Most interested observers suspect that almost all of Palin's legal expenses so far are related to her own ethics complaint, and to negotiating a way out of serious trouble regarding her illegal billings for children's travel, as a result of Gwartny's efforts. The amount of money she took in the travel case, after all, far exceeded the amount of money her former mentor Vic Kohring, went to jail for having taken. Today, AK Muckraker also covered the reality that most feel the preponderance, if not almost all, of Palin's legal bills stem from these two cases. AKM observed this morning at The Mudflats:
This isn’t taking paper clips and sticky pads out of the supply cabinet. This is $10,000 worth of illegal travel expenses. The governor’s office framed it as “a mistake” that they “corrected.” Oops!
II. The term people are using for these citizen filings is "ethics complaint." People need to realize that what filers like Frank Gwartney, Andree McLeod, Linda Kellen and others are doing, is requesting clarification of interpretations of statutes that have very little or no case law or enforcement history behind them, at least as far as knowledge of their history being in the public domain goes. I'm not sure that "ethics complaint" is the most accurate term for what some of these actions really are or have been. By characterizing them that way, these requests, which will be used by future governors or executive branch employees as guidelines, are being personalized in a way they will not be, in the long run.
In regard to obtaining e-mails and other kinds of correspondence from the executive branch, and the outrageous costs the government is assigning to information retrieval, some states' "sunshine laws" make it far easier for citizens to obtain this kind of information than does ours.
The thrust of the governor's office, the members of the ethics commission, of right-wing AM radio, and the Anchorage Daily News editors, has been that these clarification requests are unnecessary, burdensome, and that their continuance may reflect a need for filers to bear the burden of expenses for requests that do not result in a ruling against the person about whom the clarification action is being requested.
For this to happen, in a state whose recent reputation is as allowing our politicians' a virtual free rein from adequate public oversight, is both sad and tawdry.