Palin PAC role called a conflict

COMPLAINT: Filing claims trips violated state ethics standards.

April 22, 2009 

A new ethics complaint filed Wednesday against Gov. Sarah Palin says her role in the political action committee SarahPAC poses a conflict with her official duties as governor.

The complaint was brought by Anchorage resident Sondra Tompkins, who describes herself an advocate for children with disabilities and mother of a special-needs child. Her son has autism.

The complaint says the governor abdicated her governor duties at a critical time -- the end of the legislative session, when she went to Indiana for two events, a Right to Life banquet and a breakfast for families with Down syndrome children.

"The recent partisan trip to Indiana by the Governor was purely to benefit personal interests, had no benefit for the State of Alaska and was in direct conflict with her official duties," the complaint said.

SarahPAC paid for the travel, a spokeswoman for the group has said. Palin essentially has a "contract" with SarahPAC to work for its interests on national issues, even when those interests don't match Alaska's, the complaint said.

Palin's office shot back, calling the complaint outrageous and the allegations false, ridiculous, and an abuse of the state ethics act.

"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," Mike Nizich, the governor's chief of staff, said in a written statement.

Palin and aides have faced 11 or so other ethics complaints, and she has said she's amassed more than $500,000 in legal bills fighting them as well as other matters. Nizich said no allegations against the governor have been substantiated.

To settle one complaint, Palin did agree to repay the state for 10 trips taken by her children. Several of the complaints are pending.

"I hope that the publicity-seekers will face a backlash from Alaskans who have a sense of fair play and proportion," Nizich said in the statement. "I served six previous governors, and I've never seen anything like the attacks against Governor Palin."

The volume of complaints amounts to harassment, the governor's communications director, Bill McAllister, said in the statement. He also said ethics complaints are supposed to be confidential, under the law.

Tompkins said she's just trying to hold Palin accountable, as Palin asked Alaskans to do when she took office. If Palin abided by the ethics act, there wouldn't be so many complaints, Tompkins said.

As to confidentiality, Tompkins said she thought that didn't kick in until the matter reached the state Personnel Board and that she's doing her best to work under a complex law.

"I'm just an average, run-of-the-mill Alaskan," Tompkins said. "It's not like I've been through this before."

McAllister said Palin left Alaska during the legislative session for just two trips -- a total of four days -- and conducted state business both times. For instance, he said she stopped in Chicago on a leg of the Indiana trip to meet with officials from TransCanada, which has a state license to build a natural gas pipeline.

But the new complaint noted that during Palin's trip to Indiana, the Legislature voted down her nomination for attorney general, Wayne Anthony Ross, and other critical business was left unfinished, including whether Alaska will accept all the federal stimulus money.

"We should be able to have her undivided attention and I'm not sure we do at this point," Tompkins said.


Find Lisa Demer online at adn.com/contact/ldemer or call 257-4390.

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