AP’s Rachel D’Oro must have the Palin beat… either that, or she’s assumed the Woodward/Berstein role to Kim Chatman’s “Deep Throat” character.
Chatman, complainant #18 in Part III of my Alinsky Perfected series, accuses Sarah of “…misusing the governor’s office for personal gain by securing unwarranted benefits and receiving improper gifts through the Alaska Fund Trust” April 27th. Since that time, the Personnel Board has, as their normal procedure, hired an investigative counsel to determine probable cause prior to any Board hearing or determination.
Thomas Daniel of Perkins Coie in Anchorage assumed that task, and issued his confidential report to the Board on July 14th.
Within 7 days, D’Oro releases an AP story, mysteriously in possession of a report that, by ethics complaint provisions, is mandated as confidential information until released publicly by the Board with waiver by the Governor. The headline screams “guilty”… “Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin implicated in ethics investigation of legal defence fund”
Mata Musing: As Mel from Conservatives4Palin notes, the AP has since changed their headline to read instead… “Investigator rules against Palin in ethics probe”. Yeah… there’s an improvement to reflect the facts… *not*.
From the story with the ever morphing headline….
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – An independent investigator has found evidence that Gov. Sarah Palin, the former Republican vice-presidential candidate, may have violated ethics laws by trading on her position as she sought money for lawyer fees, in her latest legal distraction as she prepares to leave office this week.
The report obtained by The Associated Press says Palin was 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 her legal defence fund.
ummmmm… not quite. And of course they did not provide a link to the leaked investigative report to the Board.
By releasing this to the press, Ms. Chatman’s intent appears not to be waiting for Board recommendations and actions but to drive a media kangaroo court of justice for Sarah Palin.
So let’s look at that confidential report, now part of now public domain via ADN, and see what warrants a headline that screams “guilty”.
Daniel’s investigative task is solely meant to establish probable cause that may, or may not, lead to a hearing to determine a violation and penalty, or dismissal. They [investigative counsel] can only recommend corrective actions. It was specific excerpts that D’Oro chose to highlight in her story that drives her intent to find Palin guilty in the court of public opinion.
The analysis, beginning on page two of the above linked “confidential” report, discusses not only the two pronged complaint of using the gubernatorial seat for personal gain, but also the establishment and receipt of funds collected thru the legal defense fund. And the only probable cause “guilt” Palin is suspected of is giving permission for the defense fund to use her photo and address her as “Governor”, and that she would “personally benefit” from any funds she received from that fund…..
…. if she had received any such gifts.
Fact is, Ms. Palin has not taken a dime from the legal defense fund.
Per the report INRE the first charge, investigation of the origins of the Alaska Trust Fund – set up legally to emulate those of John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, etal – was in order.
As Daniel notes in his final summaries, legal defense funds are common practice for federal office holders. The Alaska Trust fund adheres to similar, if not identical, restrictions as those for members of Congress. However while donors may, with all rights, make contributions to Sarah as a national stage politician, her picture as Alaskan governor muddies the waters legally, and intrinsically ties the fund to the state of Alaska, and thereby their laws.
Alaska ethics laws, or other statutes, make no provisions for state officials to create legal defense funds as Congress members can. And in fact, Mr. Daniel notes this as a flaw that should be addressed stating:
Perhaps there should be, but that is a matter for the legislature to address. My job is to apply the statute as currently written.
Thus Daniel did recognize that Palin could indeed stand to benefit from these funds. And of course, that was the purpose of the fund to begin with… no one will argue the obvious.
But he concluded this benefit was not as easy, saying:
The more difficult question is whether the first part of the statute is satisfied – did the Governor “use, or attempt to use, an official position” in order to obtain this personal gain?~~~
If third parties created the legal defense fund completely on ther own, free from any direction, influence or guidance from the governor, it would not seem that the governor “used her position” in violation of the statute.
The legal defense fund was created by Kristan Cole, also functioning as trustee of the fund, in concert with other Palin supporters who felt Sarah should not have to pay for escalating legal bill for frivolous assaults. Daniel interviewed Ms. Cole, as noted in the report, who confirmed that it was she and supporters who set up the fund, not Palin.
The lone statement that made this not totally dismissable for Daniel was that Ms. Cole stated she asked for Palin’s approval to create the fund as her “official” legal defense fund, and for permission to use her photo. Palin gave this approval. Per the report, that was the extent of Palin’s involvement.
When strictly interpreting the statute, and Daniel’s assumed that an ordinary citizen would not enjoy the success for fund solicitatation that a public figure the stature of Sarah could. So he concluded that Palin’s photo and title gave some probable cause to her position being used for personal benefit.
But obviously, we’re teetering on the borderline of reason and legalities. ala the nature of the donations. Can they separate each as being related to her position as Alaskan governor or as a national political figure? Then combine that with her disassociation with the fund other than to say “yes” to the use of a picture, and “thanks” for an official site that couldn’t be advanced as a fraudulent scam on well meaning supporters. More on creation of these legal defense funds below the subheading “Investigator addresses “fairness” of Alaskan law”.
The next charge by Ms. Chatman had to do with accepting “gifts” … i.e. the donated funds… that were “intended” to influence her performance as Governor. This would be what we know as lobbyist dinners, trip and entertaining of Congress in exchange for favorable votes on legislation.
Two avenues of this were written off as absurd. First, the donors to the fund were from everywhere, and limited to a maximum of $150. This amount is interpreted by the AG as “…unlikely to be intended to influence judgment”. Somehow I’m pretty sure that $150 is way too low a price to buy any modern politician so it’s not believable that any individual donor could expect political favors in return.
Second would be the combination of those donations as a gift – the result of a “series” of $150 donations. Meaning the trust would be receiving multiple $150 donations, and providing them as a gift in a large, substantial lump sum. This requires that single large donation to be reported as a “gift”. This in no way violates the ethics act unless that payment of combined trust gift funds could be inferred to assume influenced performance from an elected official.
Because the trust was the giver, it was also unlikely that there are any avenues for “influence” that can benefit a single trust entity.
There was only one way for any appearance of impropiety for a gift from the legal defense fund to Palin… the trustee, Kristan Cole, herself.
Cole and Palin go back some time, as good friends in intimiate rural states usually do. And it’s highly unlikely that a mere acquaintance, with little concern personally for the Palin family’s financial crisis, would go thru the hoopla of setting up a legal trust fund. So in order to dig as deep into appearance of impropriety, he also took into account the relationship between Kristan and Palin.
Palin appointed Ms. Cole as chairman of Board of Agriculture and Conservation, had appointed her to the board of the Royalty Oil and Gas Commission, and she also serves on the Creamery Board, a “private corporation owned by the State of Alaska”… huh? uh, nevermind.
Because of their past, Mr. Daniel decides it’s “reasonable” that the trustee… not the donors or the trust itself… *may* bear looking at in an attempt to gain influence. On this, Daniel says:
I cannot read Ms. Cole’s mind and therefore it is possible that her formation of the legal defense fund is entirely altruistic without an expectation of anything in return. But as explained above, the standard for interpreting this section of the Ethics Act is an objective one. The circumstances around the creation of the trust fund suggest that the organizers will expect “that when policy decisions are made in the future, the [governor] will be favorably disposed to give more weight to [their] viewpoint”.
In addition, my role as an independent counsel for the personnel board is only to decide whether there is probable cause to believe a violation of the Ethics Law has occurred – not to reach a definitive conclusion. See AS 39.52.320 The ultimate determination fo whether the governor has violated the Ethics Act can only be made by the personnel board after a formal hearing and a report by a hearing officer. See AS 39.52.360-370
Apparently a minor little sentence that Ms. D’Oro missed when composing her various “guilty” headlines…
But wait… let’s look at Ms. Kristan Cole and those shadowy associations that Mr. Daniel brings up as “reasonable” probable cause.
As the ADN article on this BS yesterday notes, those appointments were all made prior to the legal defense fund’s creation… therefore they are completely unrelated. It should also be noted these are volunteer positions.
However Daniel cannot afford to leave any stone unturned in a thorough investigation. Quite frankly, had he left out the relationship between Palin and Cole, there would be an uproar about the quality of his work.
But that was then, and this was now. I’m not sure what favors a volunteer board member or chair of these particular entities can expect from a governor specifically, and I certainly question just how high up in the food chain of importance they would be for policy as volunteers. But I’m darned sure they could expect few favors from an embattled governor under the microscope 24/7, and can expect absolutely no favors from an ex-governor.
Somehow I would expect even Daniel’s third and only possibility of “gifts for influence” probable cause would get thrown out at a formal hearing as irrelevant because of the nature and timing of the appointments.
There’s an interesting Section C on it’s own… Mr. Daniel addressing the fairness of a governor who is unable to set up a legal defense fund for charges that have been dismissed or cleared. And he had a chat with the AG’s office to find out why the State wasn’t paying for Palin’s expenses on these cleared ethics charges. The short AG answer was that they only pay for officials’ defense when they are charges incurred while carrying out state duties, while the theoretical essense of ethics charges is that the state official was acting to their own personal benefit. So even the innocent get stuck with the bill.
After some checking into it, the AG’s office said they could reimburse Palin for hiring legal defense, perhaps with a *capped* limit, from state funds… as long as it met certain conditions. [See pg 8, paragraph 2 for specifics that aren’t paramount here]
You do see what this means, yes? I’ll spell it out..
Reimbursing Palin’s legal defense from the state’s funds nails the taxpayers *twice*! First for processing and investigating probable cause on all these BS complaints, and a second time to pay for Palin’s lawyers after she’s been cleared.
Palin is already on record that she’s unhappy with the bill the taxpayers are shoulding so that her political opposition can wage an agenda war to destroy her. I highly doubt she would be happy seeing them get stuck with additional bills involuntarily.
And about that formal hearing… Mr. Daniel’s recommendations of corrective actions are found on page nine. And apparently nothing smacked of serious juju here because he feels this doesn’t even meet the needs for a hearing.
I can recommend that corrective action be taken to resolve this complaint without the necessity of a formal hearing on the matter See AS 39.52.330 My recommendation is that the governor should refuse to accept payment of her legal fees and costs from the Alaska Fund Trust and withdraw her authorization for the trust to be recognized as her “official” legal defense fund. I also recommend that she seek reimbursement from the state for the cost of defending the ethics complaints that have been dismissed.
I also recommend that the legislature consider amending the Ethics Act to require the state to reimburse a public official for reasonable legal fees and costs incurred to defend against an Ethics Act complaint that is dismissed.
I’m not sure how this trust fund nonsense plays out when Sarah is no longer governor, and I’m sure she’ll be speaking with attorneys on this. But I just can’t see her dumping these costs on the Alaskans. And if she does, I would truly be disapointed.
The last state of this “confidential” report states:
Notice of this decision will be communicated to the governor and to Ms. Chatman. However this decision is confidential pursuant to AS 39.52.340, unless confidentiality is waived by the governor.
Ms. Palin has *not* waived confidentiality, and addresses Ms. Chatman in their response on this leak of the report.
Mrs. Palin’s private attorney Thomas Van Flein says it’s too early for the AP to judge the outcome of the investigation. “I have been working with the investigator regarding supplemental information,” he said. “The matter is still pending.”
“Whatever you have seen was released in violation of law,” he said. “There has been no Board finding of an ethics violation and there is a detailed legal process to follow before there is a final resolution.”
Mrs. Palin may turn the tables on the leakers in the future, too.
“All options are open in terms of legal remedies,” Mr. Van Flein said.
Kim Chatman, who filed the complaint, spoke to the Associated Press on the record ahead of the report’s release, an action prohibited by the ethics procedures. Palin’s aides believe Ms. Chatman leaked the report as well.
“It is a clear violation of Alaska law that Mr. Daniel explicitly reviewed with Ms. Chatman prior to her illegal actions,” Mr. Van Flein said. “We will be contacting the appropriate authorities for review and action.”
If Kim Chatman sets up a legal defense fund, would anyone care let alone donate? You go, Sarah. Because Ms. Chatman is out to get you… it is she who signed on to the unbelievably offensive Juneteenth lawsuit, accusing Palin of being a racist, in order to get it into Alaska’s federal court system. Ms. Chatman, herself caucasian, is married to a black American.
But that’s another story in progress, and to come in the “trials and tribulations of Sarah category.
Now… this story isn’t over, and Mel at Conservatives4Palin keeps updating his post today with tweets and FB updates.
Vietnam era Navy wife, indy/conservative, and an official California escapee now residing as a red speck in the sea of Oregon blue.