Huffpost Politics

Palin To Return Tainted Donations

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JUNEAU, Alaska — Gov. Sarah Palin, touted by Republican presidential nominee John McCain as a reformer when he picked her to be his running mate, will send $2,100 to three charities to account for tainted 2006 donations to her gubernatorial campaign.

Palin said Friday she approved giving back money that came from two Alaska politicians implicated in a sweeping federal corruption probe, plus money donated from the wife of one of the two men.

A McCain campaign spokesman said Palin selected three Alaska-based charities: Abused Women's Aid in Crisis and Crisis Pregnancy Center, both in Anchorage, and Special Olympics Alaska.

The decision to donate money came Thursday evening, several hours after The Associated Press reported that Palin had accepted the funds during her run for governor in the weeks after the FBI raided the offices of the lawmakers.

"Gov. Palin has made a career of holding herself to the highest standards of ethics. As soon as the governor learned of the donations today, she immediately decided to donate them to charity," campaign spokesman Taylor Griffin said.

The two politicians in this case were snagged in a federal investigation revolving around an oil-field services company once known as VECO Corp. Executives from the company are at the center of the trial of Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, that began this week in Washington.

Palin felt so strongly about the indictment of once-powerful Sen. John Cowdery that she urged him to resign. A year earlier, Palin questioned whether Cowdery should retain his post leading a powerful Senate committee after a government witness claimed in a VECO-related trial that he was part of the bribery scheme.

He was indicted in July on two federal bribery counts; the other donor, former Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch, is awaiting trial. Both are Republicans, and their contributions were to the joint campaign of Palin and Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell. Neither had any obvious connection to Palin before she took office.

In the Stevens case, prosecutors say he lied on his financial disclosure forms about more than $250,000 in home renovations and other gifts he received from VECO. In Alaska, the government has leveled more serious charges: That the company and its bosses tried to corrupt lawmakers by plying them with money or gifts in exchange for their votes.

On Aug. 31, 2006, FBI agents searched the offices of six state lawmakers, including Cowdery and Weyhrauch.

By October 2006, Palin's campaign had received $30 from Weyhrauch in addition to Cowdery's $1,000. Separately, Cowdery's wife, Juanita, contributed $1,000; she is not accused of any wrongdoing.

Palin chose to donate $2,100 so each charity could receive $700, Griffin said Friday.

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Justin Pritchard reported from Anchorage, Alaska. Associated Press writer Sharon Theimer in Washington contributed to this report.

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