The Campaign Spot

How Dare Sarah Palin Give a Speech in Indiana!

Another complaint has been filed against Alaska governor Sarah Palin, this one alleging that speaking at that pro-life dinner in Indiana was . . . an ethics violation. Really.

Palin’s response:

The Office of the Governor today expressed outrage that yet another baseless ethics complaint has been filed as part of an alarming new development in Alaska politics.

“In the past several months, we have seen an orchestrated effort by the governor’s opponents to make differences of opinion and ideology almost criminal,” said Mike Nizich, the governor’s chief of staff.  “Governor Palin has spent a considerable amount of time and money fighting ethics complaints – and no charge has been substantiated. I hope that the publicity-seekers will face a backlash from Alaskans who have a sense of fair play and proportion.  I served six previous governors, and I’ve never seen anything like the attacks against Governor Palin.

The latest ethics complaint against the governor alleges that she entered into a “contract” outside of her official duties in regard to a political action committee and that her recent trip to Indiana also conflicted with those duties.

“These allegations are categorically false and ridiculous, and are an abuse of the Executive Ethics Act,” Nizich said.

“We are blessed to live in a democracy in which everyone has the right to free speech, to petition their lawmakers, to vote, to run for office and, yes, to allege misconduct by public officials,” said Bill McAllister, the governor’s communications director.  “But obviously the purpose of this complaint and the previous ones is to distract the administration and the public, and to paralyze the Department of Law and the executive branch.

“There’s a core hypocrisy in nearly all of the ethics complaints brought against the governor, including this one.  The ethics act clearly states that complaints, when filed, are to be confidential. Ms. Tompkins publicized her filing on several blogs, breaking the letter and the spirit of the law.  While there are no penalties in the statute for this illegal behavior, Alaskans of all political persuasions should be appalled that the people who are alleging unethical behavior by the governor are repeatedly doing so unethically.”

The relevant section of the ethics act follows:

 “Sec. 39.52.340.  Confidentiality.

            (a) Except as provided in AS 39.52.335, before the initiation of formal proceedings under AS 39.52.350, the complaint and all other documents and information regarding an investigation conducted under this chapter or obtained by the attorney general during the investigation are confidential and not subject to inspection by the public. In the case of a complaint concerning the governor, lieutenant governor, or attorney general, all meetings of the personnel board concerning the complaint and investigation before the determination of probable cause are closed to the public. . . . The attorney general and all persons contacted during the course of an investigation shall maintain confidentiality regarding the existence of the investigation.”

Under the Legislative Ethics Act, publicizing an ethics complaint against a lawmaker would result in the automatic dismissal of that complaint. The Executive Ethics Act does not contain that provision.

While the latest complaint concerns 36 hours that the governor spent out of state this month, her opponents have spent months filing ethics complaints and records requests in a volume that constitutes a pattern of harassment and that has negatively impacted the Department of Law, McAllister said.

He noted that the governor left Alaska only twice during the recently completed legislative session — for a total of just four days, including travel time — and that during both trips she conducted state government business.

“Governor Palin hasn’t done anything that any other governor in the nation hasn’t done,” McAllister said. “I hope Alaskans can see through this stunt.”