Just as Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is pushing an energy plan that fronts her as presidential material for 2012, two of her top aides-- Communications Director and Press Secretary, Bill McAllister, and Palin's Anchorage office director, Kris Perry--are being hit with new ethics charges, to be filed with the state Attorney General on Monday.
Well-known Alaskan political watchdog Andree McLeod--a registered Republican who was once a close political associate of Palin's and who has worked at a variety of jobs in Alaskan government--said that she is filing the complaint because "employees working for Palin conducted partisan political activities while on the clock and on the public's dime."
In August of last year, before Palin was nominated as John McCain's GOP running mate, McLeod filed ethics charges against the Palin administration over the hiring of Palin political crony Tom Lamal. She also has a legal case pending against Palin in which she is trying to make public more than 1,000 state emails that were copied to the governor's husband, Todd. In October, an Anchorage judge ordered Palin and others in her office to "retrieve and preserve" any emails from private accounts that concern state business that were copied to the so-called "First Dude."
In her current complaint against McAllister, McLeod sites a series of activities that she contends violate Alaska's "Executive Branch Code of Ethics," which prohibits public officials from using or authorizing "the use of state funds, facilities, equipment, services, or another government asset or resource for partisan political purposes."
"These campaign activities have absolutely nothing to do with the public's business, and everything to do with promoting Palin's personal endeavors and political aspirations," McLeod declared in an exclusive interview. "This must not go unchallenged."
In her complaint, addressed to Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg, McLeod charges that state documents indicate McAllister traveled with the Palin entourage to Minneapolis for the Republican National Convention and that he was on the Alaska payroll September 1 to 5, 2008, allegedly "to provide staff support to the governor regarding state business."
Yet an email from McAllister to Palin (on her controversial private Yahoo account) indicates that McAllister was clearly coordinating Palin's activities for the RNC.
The convention itself is requesting you to act as a surrogate for McCain for national media. Available blocs of time daily, are 5-9 a.m., 11 a.m. - 9.a.m. Within those, they ask when you might be available for this purpose.
Three other state of Alaska employees--Perry, Janice Mason and Sharon Leighow--were also copied by McAllister on what was clearly Republican Party business.
In a television interview McAllister gave to Anchorage station KTUU while at the convention, he declared:
She's been in long, long briefings working on foreign policy, beginning to work on her speech she'll be delivering here when she accepts the nomination. It's a very intense operation. The McCain folks definitely know what they want. They're working with her all day long on various aspects of how this is going to go.
McAllister also said that Palin was feeling "good and ready" for her Wednesday night speech. "It's going to be a friendly crowd here and the audience will likely embrace the governor"--once again, hardly state business and clearly partisan activity.
The McLeod complaint cites several other similar incidents involving McAllister during the presidential campaign that cross over into partisan activities.
But perhaps the most clear-cut violations of the Ethics Code by McAllister cited by McLeod are a series of interviews that McAllister gave following the announcement that Democrat Bob Poe would be challenging Palin for Governor in 2010. McAllister responded directly to charges that Poe made during the announcement of his candidacy, and not only disputed Poe's charges on behalf of Palin, but took political potshots at Poe:
It is unfortunate that Mr. Poe would claim, counter to the obvious facts, that the governor is putting national political aspirations above her role as chief executive of the state. Since the election, the governor has spent less than a day out of state attending to partisan activities.
Then he changed it to five days:
The governor is here has been gone a mere five days in the past two months. Since the election, she has been in Alaska, is working, is focused, and doesn't need a nudge from Bob Poe to do it.
McAllister then got more aggressive. A January 9, 2009, Anchorage Daily News article again had McAllister weighing in on Poe:
"Palin spokesman Bill McAllister said it was presumptuous of Poe to comment on the internal workings of the administration. 'He doesn't know what he's talking about," McAllister said.' McAllister rejected Poe's criticism that Palin's absences have hurt the state. Other governors, including George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, ran for national office while running their states. Since the election, Palin has been out of the state for five days and she's devoted less than one day to political activity despite numerous requests, McAllister said. As for the natural gas pipeline process....McAllister wondered if Poe wanted a return to closed negotiations and giveaways. 'I don't see any evidence that that's what the public wants,' McAllister said."
McAllister is a former KTUU news reporter in Anchorage who critics say sucked up to Palin during her early stint as governor in pursuit of his current post. Emails uncovered by McLeod indicate that McAllister was angling for his post with Palin several months before receiving it--and while he was still assigned to cover her for KTUU.
In Kaylene Johnson's hagiography on Palin, McAllister brags about betting on Palin in her primary battle with former Alaska governor Frank Murkowski: "I had a bet with my colleagues at work," McAllister boasts, "a high-end single-malt scotch with one and a fine bottle of wine with the other--that Sarah would win the primary." This came while he was covering the race--clearly a violation of journalistic ethics.
McLeod's charges leveled at Perry--Palin's former campaign manager who headed up the Wasilla Chamber of Commerce while Palin was mayor there--are similar to those directed at McAllister. Apparently, Perry spent six weeks on the campaign trail with Palin. She also traveled to Georgia with Palin when she campaigned for Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss--while she was still on the clock in Alaska.
This is not the first time those around Palin have been hit with ethics charges. In her ill-fated 2002 campaign for lieutenant governor, Palin was caught using City of Wasilla resources for campaign related mailings, phone calls, faxes and printing. She also campaigned on city time. More recently, Zane Henning has charged Palin with violations of the ethics code for using state offices for her interview with Greta Van Susteren.
McLeod finds Palin's hypocrisy troubling. "The self-proclaimed queen of ethics has again crossed the line and violated her own oft- repeated ethics principles," McLeod declared. "This dog won't hunt."