Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin -- recently dubbed by Gabriel Sherman of New York Magazine as the "President of right-wing America" -- and her Anchorage attorney Thomas Van Flein continue to deal in duplicity and fraud in response to findings issued by the Alaska Department of Law regarding Ethics Act complaints levied against Palin and her deceptively named Alaska Fund Trust.
In a widely reported posting on Palin's Facebook page -- the intellectual bunker from which Palin launches her lies and verbal grenades, a media "filter," as Andrew Sullivan recently noted, that "protects Palin from scrutiny" -- Van Flein issued troubling and intentionally misleading statement about Palin's violations of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. Van Flein, who is as pompous as he is verbose, rambled extensively in a missive entitled "Hit and Miss":
Yesterday we learned that another "ethics" complaint that was filed against Governor Palin was dismissed as baseless. (If you are counting, the Governor is 26-0-1 regarding such complaints or suits, with one still pending). Only this complaint was actually filed after she left office, and alleged that the mere existence of the Alaska Fund Trust (the legal defense fund set up for her to help defray the costs incurred during the Troopergate fiasco and related machinations that followed in its wake) was violative of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act as well as its solicitation or receipt of contributions. The raison d'être of the legal defense fund was inexorably linked to Governor Palin's nomination as the Republican candidate for Vice President and the post-nomination political tactics arising therefrom; thus making the nomination sine quo non for the fund. In a detailed opinion, the complaint was dismissed as lacking a factual or legal basis.
Quite a mouthful (French, Latin and ungrammatical English in a single sentence!), and it's a pack of lies further obfuscated by the fact that neither Palin nor Van Flein had the intellectual integrity to make the opinion public. (Indeed, Palin is to political transparency what raw crude is to ocean water, but that's another matter).
In fact, the ruling -- which I have exclusively obtained -- is extremely limited in its scope (at two-and-half pages it is hardly "detailed") and does nothing to address the "factual" basis of the complaint, as Van Flein contends. Instead, it asserts simply that the Ethics Act applies solely "to a current officer and does not apply to a former public officer by definition." The complaint referenced was filed against Palin last year after she quit her governorship midterm amid mounting political controversies in Alaska.
Furthermore, the Alaska Fund Trust (set up to pay for Palin's mounting legal bills -- and not to be confused with SarahPAC, with which she spends money on her political allies and sycophants) remains "frozen" following a "preliminary finding" in July of 2009 in which independent Alaska Personnel Board investigator Thomas Daniel contended that "there is probable cause to believe that Governor Palin used, or attempted to use, her official position for personal gain" in establishing the fund.
At least six months after Palin quit her position, solicitations on the AFT website still referenced "current Governor Sarah Palin." It was palpably dishonest.
Those are details, of course, that Palin and Van Flein would rather not make public, particularly to the masses outside of Alaska who follow Palin on Facebook as she shamelessly promotes herself towards a run for the presidency in 2012. They also diminish the Palin "brand" as marketed in every medium imaginable since her self-serving resignation nine months ago. (In Alaska, she is still widely referred to as a "grifter.")
Alaska political watchdog Andree McLeod -- the longtime Anchorage-based Republican who has filed five of the claims against Palin, including the one to which Van Flein referenced -- has called the Van Flein-Palin post "deception filled with contempt, lies and derision."
Sarah Palin's score-keeping of ethics complaints disappoints. It shows she doesn't get it. As governor, she breached the public's trust by consistently putting her interests above the state's interests, and feathering her nest.
In what has been an ongoing culture of political corruption in Alaska -- one remarkably lacking both transparency and accountability -- Van Flein acknowledges that there have now been 27 Ethics Act complaints lodged against Palin and one legislative investigation.
The findings have castigated Palin's behavior during her brief term in office far more significantly than Van Flein's scorecard would have us believe:
• McLeod's first ethics complaint brought against Palin -- long before she was chosen to be John McCain's nominee -- was directed at the governor's office for the inappropriate hiring of a Palin supporter for a classified position. It resulted in the finding that a key member of Palin's staff, Frank Bailey, get "training and counseling" on the Alaska Personnel Act to "prevent the potential for future violations of the act."
• McLeod's initial Records Act request -- also made long before she was named as McCain's running mate--revealed that Palin and several members of her administration were conducting state business on private email systems -- a rogue government communications network with Palin at the helm. The requests further exposed the fact that Palin was using state funds for her family travels and collected a per diem for living at her home in Wasilla.
• Palin has also had to repay the state for travel expenses and to pay back income taxes on thousands of dollars in expense money she received while living at her Wasilla home.
• Perhaps most troubling of all Van Flein's comments is his derogatory reference to the "Troopergate fiasco"--which, once again, was initiated well before Palin's nomination. In the investigation conducted by the bi-partisan Alaska Legislative Council, former Republican prosecutor Steve Branchflower found "that Governor Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act."
• Even the Petumenos Report, processed by the Alaska Personnel Board and which exonerated Palin for abuse of power, came to the often overlooked conclusion:
A cautionary note must be made with respect to the investigation conducted. Efforts to locate and secure all relevant e-mails have been exceedingly difficult in this case...We are concerned about the use by the Governor and some of her staff of private e-mail accounts for government business. In particular, the Governor and Frank Bailey conducted government business on private accounts...The Governor...deleted e-mails without consulting [document retention schedules].
26-0-1? Really? Who are they trying to fool?
Moreover, the investigative process in all of these Ethics Act complaints has been decidedly stacked in Palin's favor. In the case of the McLeod's Fund Trust complaint, the decision was rendered by the Department of Law which is overseen by Attorney General Dan Sullivan. While Sullivan formally recused himself from this investigation, it was conducted by a DOL associate whom he supervises. (Nonetheless, the dismissal letter was inexplicably issued under Sullivan's name.)
The three-member Personnel Board which has overseen the other ethics act complaints is also shamefully partisan. The three members sit at the pleasure of the governor for six-year terms, meaning that current board members have all been appointed by a succession of Republican governors (including Palin). And while the board was intended by statute to be bipartisan, there's not a Democrat in the bunch. The board is bubbling with biases and hidden agendas. (The most recent appointment by Governor Sean Parnell is a member of the Republican National Committee.)
Nonetheless, Palin and Van Flein continue to cast Palin as a victim of a sinister "partisan" conspiracy directed by Obama's White House against her. It's a sad joke that reveals the Palin camp's cultish paranoia. Everyone in Alaska knows that the vast majority of these complaints have been filed by McLeod and an assorted group of Republican and Independent activists from the conservative Alaska railbelt (not from the more liberal Southeast panhandle). Indeed, Alaska Democrats, with rare exception, have kept an arm's length from McLeod & Co., a distancing I witnessed firsthand during a research excursion in Alaska last summer.
None of which has stopped Palin from attacking McLeod, with whom she once worked closely in Alaska politics as recently as 2002. In Going Rogue, Palin refers to McLeod repeatedly as the "falafel lady." It's an intended slur of ethnic derision, loaded with all of Palin's adolescent fury.
McLeod's not buying any of it.
Maligning my efforts to create accountability doesn't negate the fact that, although Palin quit and threw her oath of office into Lake Lucille after desecrating the position and office of the governor of our state of Alaska, she has yet to atone for her abuses while in office. After all, there should be consequences for bad behavior.
Award-winning writer and filmmaker Geoffrey Dunn's book The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power will be published by St. Martin's Press.