Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s office just released a statement regarding the state administrators’ decision that her per diem is subject to taxes. The state’s decision reverses a policy that had treated the payments as legitimate business expenses under the Internal Revenue Code.
I am gratified that this settlement explicitly recognizes and establishes (under Point No. 5) that I broke no laws or ethics rules. The Personnel Board is acknowledging the lack of clarity in the formal guidance regarding travel, further indicating that there is no fault to be ascribed to me.
It is troubling that this complaint was such an obvious political weapon, with an associate of a political adversary filing this and making it public – against state law – just before the election. Beyond objecting to the obvious gamesmanship that serves the public so terribly, I think it is important to prevent the ethics act from being used as a tool to ensure that only the wealthy can seek higher office in Alaska.
But it is important to avoid such disputes in the future, if possible. To that end, I have agreed to support clarifications in the travel rules, and to reimburse the state for certain trips that some day might not be considered an appropriate state expense, under the forthcoming revisions. That is, although I am not required to do so, I will set a new standard on travel now by assuming the burden of these particular expenses.
This is a big state, and I am obligated to – and intend to – keep Alaskans informed and meet with them as much as I can, from Barrow to Marshall to Ketchikan. At the same time, I am blessed to have a large and loving family, and the discharge of my duties should not prevent me from spending time with them. I will do so in accordance with the upcoming rewrite of regulations concerning travel expenses, and despite those who would crimp me from fulfilling either my obligations to the state or my obligations to my family.
A discussion of whether Palin’s per diem qualifies as income from during the campaign can be found here.