Two state leaders lashed out at the public record of Gov. Sarah Palin on Wednesday as witnesses in a new "Alaska Mythbusters" forum coordinated by supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Speaking to a teleconference audience of reporters around the nation, former Gov. Tony Knowles and current Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein -- both Democrats -- accused Palin of misleading the public in her new role as the vice presidential running mate of Arizona Sen. John McCain.
While some of their complaints have already been aired, Knowles broke new ground while answering a reporter's question on whether Wasilla forced rape victims to pay for their own forensic tests when Palin was mayor.
True, Knowles said.
Eight years ago, complaints about charging rape victims for medical exams in Wasilla prompted the Alaska Legislature to pass a bill -- signed into law by Knowles -- that banned the practice statewide.
"There was one town in Alaska that was charging victims for this, and that was Wasilla," Knowles said
A May 23, 2000, article in Wasilla's newspaper, The Frontiersman, noted that Alaska State Troopers and most municipal police agencies regularly pay for such exams, which cost between $300 and $1,200 apiece.
"(But) the Wasilla police department does charge the victims of sexual assault for the tests," the newspaper reported.
It also quoted Wasilla Police Chief Charlie Fannon objecting to the law. Fannon was appointed to his position by Palin after her dismissal of the previous police chief. He said it would cost Wasilla $5,000 to $14,000 a year if the city had to foot the bill for rape exams.
"In the past we've charged the cost of exams to the victims' insurance company when possible," Fannon told the newspaper. "I just don't want to see any more burden put on the taxpayer."
An effort to reach Fannon by phone Wednesday was not successful.
Knowles and Weinstein also went after the Republican ticket on several statements now airing in campaign ads around the nation, including Palin's claim that she opposed federal money for the "bridge to nowhere."
The governor has refused to acknowledge her explicit support for the $230 million Gravina Island Access Project in her effort to sound more like an anti-earmark reformer to a national audience, Weinstein said.
And she still supports spending $400 million to $600 million on "the other Bridge to Nowhere," the Knik Arm Crossing, which would provide residents in Palin's hometown of Wasilla faster access to Anchorage, Knowles added.
"That project is moving right ahead," said Knowles, who served as governor of Alaska from 1994 to 2002. "The money for that project was not diverted anywhere else. ... So (for her) to say she said, 'Thanks, but no thanks....' I would say she said, 'Thanks!'"
A phone call to Meg Stapleton, a spokeswoman for the Alaska office of the McCain-Palin campaign, was not returned Wednesday.
However, the Republican side lost little time in organizing a national truth squad of its own to battle what it considers "smears" of Palin by Democrats. A list of the names of more than 50 members of a Palin truth team, posted Monday on the Atlantic Monthly magazine Web site, included three Alaskans: Stapleton (a former Palin aide); Kristan Cole, a longtime friend; and Republican Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell.
As a former governor, Knowles said, he's reluctant to criticize an active governor. But he decided to make an exception with Palin.
"In this situation it's not just a sitting governor," he said. "Our current governor is a candidate for the vice presidency and a heartbeat away from the presidency."
Find George Bryson online at adn.com/contact/gbryson or call 257-4318.