State pays airfare for Palin's daughter on trip to Barrow

Kyle Hopkins

When Gov. Sarah Palin's 7-year-old daughter flew to Barrow with her mother this week, the state paid the bill, a Palin spokeswoman said Thursday.

Spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said the first family was invited to Barrow by North Slope Borough Mayor Edward Itta, and that Palin made the trip with her daughter Piper and 11-week-old son, Trig.

"The state pays for family members to travel to official functions when they are included as part of the invitation," Leighow said.

Contacted Thursday afternoon, Leighow couldn't say how much the airfare cost. She said state regulations allow for such travel to be billed to the state but couldn't at that late hour point to the specific rule.

It's unclear how many times the state has paid for family members to travel with the governor.

Leighow said Palin doesn't bring her family with her often but that the state pays for it when the family's on "official business."

Asked what official business Palin's daughter would have in Barrow, Leighow said she took part in a whaling celebration.

The question of who pays for family members to travel with an Alaska governor has come up before.

Linda Perez has been director of administrative services in the governor's office since the early 1980s. In 2007, she told the Daily News that when governors travelled with their spouses, they would normally reimburse the state unless the spouses have official duties to attend to such as first-lady events.

Gov. Frank Murkowski's wife, Nancy, accompanied her husband on scores of trips. The state was reimbursed for only a handful.

Asked if it's a good use of state money to pay for travel costs for Palin's family members, Leighow said: "There's a certain expectation of the first family. Which includes participating in community activities and making public appearances."

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