Palin Ethics Charges and Legal Fees Breakdown

So, now that the dust has settled and Sarah Palin has settled on one main reason for her resignation as Governor of Alaska, it’s time to keep politics honest with some fact checking. Palin stated the financial cost to Alaska and herself over “frivolous ethics charges” at:

$500,000 personally

And Millions for Alaska

On the Alaska Fund Trust’s website (more on that in a moment) it states the cost to Alaska at over a Million and $500,000 for Sarah Palin.

However, on July 1, just two days before Palin broke the news of her resignation, Alaska’s State Personnel Board stated  ethics complaints against Palin cost them $296,000 – including, $187,797 from the Troopergate scandal which started before she was approached for the vice-presidency and that investigation was requested by Palin herself.

So what really was the cost to Palin and Alaska over the ethics charges? Could the cost to the tax payers of Alaska be great enough to warrant Palin’s leaving office?

Palin’s Personal Expenses vs. Her Assets

As for Palin’s expenses, you can take her at her word or not. But the fact of the matter is she hasn’t produced anything that details those expenses in the slightest. When directly asked about the issue her lawyer wouldn’t give a case by case account and her Spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton hasn’t responded on the issue.

But $500,000 is a plausible number considering that Palin sends out a legal warning to opponent’s any time she feels threatened.

Debate Point: Within a day of announcing her resignation Palin’s attorney released a statement warning that they would take legal action against anyone publishing “defamatory” stories that Palin was under criminal investigation, including bloggers.

Many other political figures have given Palin the sound advice that she should lay low and brush up on her knowledge of legal matters and government policy rather than going after every conflict or issue brought against her. Ultimately it reflects as poorly on her political standing as it does her wallet. But fame does come at a cost when you want to stay in the media spotlight.

Now $500,000 is nothing to sneeze at. But the Palin’s aren’t as hard up for cash as their “regular Joe” attitude may suggest. During the election ABC News covered a story that estimated the Palin’s net worth at least $1.2 million based off of financial records from 2007.

It’s also widely believed that Palin will easily exceed that in the coming months with a book deal already in the works that’s reported worth millions up front and engagements to speak already lined up. Of course, as governor (at the moment) she can’t discuss those matters.

Those who sympathize with Palin over the personal cost of her legal fees need to also consider that she has other means of paying for them.

But Wait: What about the Alaska Fund Trust?

What is the Alaska Fund Trust? It is a legal defense fund started in April 2009 to help Sarah Palin cover the expenses that’s she’s incurred from ethics charges.

Again we have to take Palin at her word on the matter of how much expense she has really taken on from these legal fees. You see the Alaska Fund Trust isn’t regulated by any federal or state entity and there is no oversight at all really.

Consider this: The website ran a webathon from June 15-22, 2009 and in that week alone they reported directed $115,585 in donations to the Alaska Fund Trust. We will point out that at that time Palin’s reported debt was approx $600,000. But over $115,000 in one week.

She would have to at least drop the total to around $500,000 since asked for people to email them the total they donated so they could track it and publicize it.

But what about all those other weeks?  June wasn’t even the most trafficked month for the site. estimates the number of visits to at:

  • April:  8,230
  • May:  2,712
  • June:  4,929
  • July: No stats to date

BTW – they also accept donations by mail.

Kristan Cole, the fund’s trustee, has said that she plans to release numbers and names of donors quarterly, with the first report coming in August. It’s suspiciously convenient that the limit they want donators to agree to is $150, which is the exact maximum before having to disclose donations as a gift.

Cole says the $150 limit was decided upon because they wanted people of all income levels to feel included.  I don’t know about other people but dropping a $150 is still a nice chunk of change.  I think the Alaska Fund Trust did the smartest thing for them fiscally. They’ve got a good accountant.

Not having to report the donations individually and with little to no oversight we’ll have to trust their math.

What’s the deal with the expenses to Alaska? Are they $300,000 or Millions?

Many people may remember Palin quoting the cost of the ethics charges at millions.  On July 8, her office released an expense report that gave a snapshot view of the cost to Alaska. Let’s break the numbers down.

Expense Report Total: $1.9 Million

Attorneys Review of Public Records Requests: $600,000+

Cost to Personnel Review Board: $560,800 (actual cost reported by Personnel Board on July 1, $296,000)

Office of Governor Expenses (staff time): $425,000+

Department of Law – Ethics: $41,574

These totals (minus the $296,000 stated by the Personnel Board for hiring outside help) represent time spent by state employees handling issues like ethics complaints, public records requests, lawsuits and the “Troopergate” ordeal. In other words these are hours the employees would have been paid for regardless of what they were working on, and for some handling ethics complaints is the job they’ve been hired to perform.

And what about that “Troopergate” mess? Based on the state personnel board’s numbers the “Troopergate” fiasco, which began about a month before Palin was approached to be John McCain’s running mate and was initiated by Palin herself, cost that state $187,797. And she was technically found guilty of it.

That brings the actual cost closer to approx. $445,043

Keep in mind if the governor’s office had reported the costs in more detail some more of those expenses would probably have whittled the actual cost down even further.

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