Sarah Palin may be gone from the governor's office of Alaska, but the ethical lapses she committed there are not forgotten. Self-proclaimed Alaska watchdog Andrée McLeod, who has filed several ethics complaints against Palin, this week submitted yet another. And with this one, McLeod has a point.
In the complaint sent to the state's attorney general, McLeod notes that this past July an independent inquiry found that Palin had violated state law due to her involvement with a legal defense fund established on her behalf. Thomas Daniel, an attorney retained by the Alaska Personnel Board to investigate an ethics complaint (not filed by McLeod) about the legal defense fund, dubbed the Alaska Fund Trust, reported to the board:
In light of the evidence that the governor expressly authorized the creation of the trust ad the fact the trust website quite openly uses the governor's position to solicit donations, there is probable cause to believe that Governor Palin used, or attempted to use, her official position for personal gain in violation of Alaska Statue 39.52.120(a) [the state's ethics law].
Daniel concluded that contributions to the fund had to be disclosed; the fund was not doing so. He also stated,
I find probable cause to believe that payment of the governor's legal fees by the Alaska Fund Trust will violate the Ethics Act prohibition against a public office accepting gifts intended to influence performance of official duties.
McLeod's complaint notes that in the months since the Daniel report was filed, the state's Personnel Board has taken no action. She adds, "Meanwhile the fund still collects money with absolutely no oversight. Contributions and expenditures have never been made public, even while Palin was a public official and had to comply with public financial disclosure laws." In fact, the website for the Alaska Fund Trust still (as of today) identifies Palin as the "current" governor of Alaska.
Now that Palin is an ex-governor, it could be that the fund's current operations--and Palin's past violations--are not of pressing concern to the state's ethics officials. But her reputation still matters. Whether or not she's a contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, she remains a leader of the conservative movement. Pitching her book on Sean Hannity's Fox News show last month, Palin dismissed ethics complaints filed against her as "frivolous things that were thrown our way." But the Daniel report was unambiguous: with her legal defense fund, Palin had violated state ethics laws. As McLeod accurately points out, nothing has been done about that. So far, Palin has gotten away with it.
You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.