Various media outlets have obtained a report of an independent investigator which suggests that Gov. Sarah Palin violated ethics laws by accepting private donations to pay her legal debts. Palin was presumably aware of this investigation when she suddenly announced her resignation recently — referring directly to the various ethics charges as one of the reasons that she resigned.
Palin is accused of using improper gifts taken from the Alaska Fund Trusts. The investigator found probable cause to believe that she was using her official office for personal gain by creating the trust with supporters as her “official” legal defense fund.
Yet, the investigator, Thomas M. Daniel, proposed that the matter be resolved by simply having Palin refuse such payments. However, this would leave Palin short of the money needed to defend against the charges. She insists that she owes more than $500,000 in legal fees.
I have to confess some sympathy for Palin on this one despite my past criticism of her views and qualifications. It seems to be that a politician should be allowed to raise money for a legal defense fund and the report does not reveal anything other than her direct involvement in seeking such donations. There may be more that has not been revealed, but I do not see facts suggesting the use of official office to pressure donors or to directly staff this effort. Daniel says that the fund directly traded on her official status, but it is unclear what that means precisely.
Daniel does state that Palin can and should seek reimbursement for the cost of defending against ethics charges that were dropped or dismissed — which would be only fair for Palin who should not have to deplete her family’s money in responding to charges found to be unprovable or baseless.
For her part, Palin posted another cryptic response on Twitter, stating “Re: inaccurate story floating re: ethics violation/legal defense fund; matter is still pending; new info was just requested even; no final report.”
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