Archive for the ‘Sarah Palin Extravagant Spending’ Category

Palin faces new ethics complaint over kids’ travel
By RACHEL D’ORO – 18 hours ago

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A new ethics complaint has been filed against Sarah Palin, accusing the Alaska governor of abusing her power by charging the state when her children traveled with her.

The complaint alleges that the Republican vice presidential nominee used her official position as governor for personal gain, violating a statute of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. It follows a report by The Associated Press last week that Palin charged the state more than $21,000 for her three daughters’ commercial flights, including events where they weren’t invited, and later ordered their expense forms amended to specify official state business.

In some cases, Palin also has charged the state for hotel rooms for the girls.

The complaint released Wednesday says Palin charged the travel costs for events her children were not invited to and where they served in no legitimate state purpose or business.

“Governor Palin intentionally secured unwarranted benefits for family members, improperly used state property to benefit her personal and financial interests, and illegally altered documents that were the subject of a Public Records request,” the complaint states.

Earlier this month, a legislative report found Palin violated state ethics laws when she fired her public safety commissioner. The state’s Personnel Board also has hired an independent counsel for a similar investigation.

Under Alaska law, it is up to the Personnel Board to decide whether Palin violated state law. The attorney general’s office didn’t return messages seeking comment Wednesday, but has previously said the possible penalties in the first Personnel Board investigation could carry a possible fine of up to $5,000.

The latest complaint was filed by Frank Gwartney, an Anchorage Democrat who supports Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Gwartney, 60, said he is fed up with “all the corruption” among Alaska’s elected officials, including Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who was convicted this week on federal corruption charges.

“Sarah ran on this very self righteous campaign on ethics and anti-corruption,” Gwartney told the AP. “She is no different from the others.”

Palin’s attorney, Thomas Van Flein, said he was not aware of the complaint and could not comment.

Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said she can’t comment specifically on the complaint because it is confidential. But she said generally the first family is expected to participate in community activities across Alaska and represents the state on travels.

“We receive hundreds of invitations for the governor each month, and a majority of them request the first family participate,” Leighow said. “The Palin children can only participate in a fraction of the events.”

Responding to the travel issue, Palin told Fox News last week that every Alaska governor has traveled with family when it’s a first family function. “And it’s always been charged to the state,” she said. “That’s part of the job.”

The state already is reviewing nearly $17,000 in per diem payments to Palin for 312 nights she slept at her home in Wasilla, about an hour’s drive from her satellite office in Anchorage.

In the complaint, Gwartney asks that the matter be investigated by the Alaska Personnel Board — a three-member panel is appointed by the governor.

The ethics travel grievance was first reported by CBS News.


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Palin Drops $32,800 on Hair and Makeup Over Two Weeks
October 24, 2008 5:48 PM

ABC News’ Jennifer Parker reports: Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s traveling makeup artist was the highest paid individual in John McCain’s campaign over the first two weeks of October.

Amy Strozzi was paid $22,800 for her work as Palin’s makeup artist for the first half of October, according to documents filed Thursday by the McCain campaign with the Federal Election Commission.

Palin’s traveling hair stylist Angela Lew, the fourth highest paid individual during that time, was paid $10,000 over two weeks in October for what the campaign called “communications consulting.” 

The second and third highest paid individuals in the first two weeks of October were Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s chief foreign policy adviser at $12,500, and Nicolle Wallace, McCain’s senior communications staffer at $12,000.

Strozzi and Lew have traveled full-time with the campaign since early September. They do hair and makeup for Palin for all her events and media interviews.

Palin has come under scrutiny this week when it was disclosed the Republican National Committee spent $150,000 on her wardrobe and makeup at high-end department stores like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Asked about the purchases in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Palin said the family shops frugally.

“That is not who we are,” Palin argued. “That whole thing is just, bad!” she said. “Oh, if people only knew how frugal we are.”

Palin argued the clothes were not worth $150,000 and were bought for the Republican National Convention. She said the pricey clothes she has worn on the campaign trail this fall will be given back to the RNC, sent to charity, or auctioned off.

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Palin’s Wardrobe Saga Exposes McCain’s Flaws: Margaret Carlson
Commentary by Margaret Carlson

Oct. 23 (Bloomberg) — At this point, criticizing Sarah Palin is like beating a dead moose. But who can resist this week’s stories of her “wardrobe of the stars” spending spree and taxpayer-funded travel?

They’re the latest in a stream of revelations that have firmly established Palin as the worst vice presidential choice, if not in history, at least in living memory. In picking her, John McCain lost two vital arguments: experience, because she doesn’t have any, and judgment, because he didn’t show any.

The latest high heel to drop might look like small potatoes were it not for all the earlier revelations.

In recently filed expenditure reports, we learn that the Republican National Committee revealed spending more than $150,000 at Neiman Marcus and Saks on a campaign makeover for the supposed Wal-Mart Mom.

That’s closer to a celebutante than to anything Joe the Plumber — or Mrs. Joe — could imagine. Who knew it cost this much to dress like a populist? At the very moment Palin was celebrating herself as “your average hockey mom” in her convention speech, she was wearing a $2,500 silk jacket by Valentino.

Imagine if she were running with the elites instead of against them? For those opening their quarterly pension-fund statements, it’s a painful reminder that Republican headquarters will always be Wall Street not Main.

Still, shouldn’t a woman catch a break here, having a bigger burden to look good 24/7? Too much attention to vanity is an equal-opportunity destroyer no matter who pays. But for his affair with a staffer, John Edwards would largely be remembered for his $400 haircut. Poor Al Gore never took the bad advice he got to wear earth tones, but he never heard the end of it.

Outdoing Paris

Palin parading around like a Project Runway extra will take far less heat even though the bill she sent the committee makes Paris Hilton look like a Target shopper. With her $1.2 million in assets and six-figure salary, Palin could have footed the bill for whatever extreme makeover she felt was in order.

It’s not a victimless crime. That $150,000 comes from funds that a respected incumbent like New Hampshire Republican Senator John Sununu — struggling not to be dragged down by the McCain- Palin ticket — desperately needs.

Earlier it came out that Palin had charged the government for $17,000 in per-diem payments for 300 days she spent in her own house. Now we find she charged the state for trips that resemble vacations if not junkets.

`Official Business’

One trip with her children on “official business” coincided with the opening day of her husband’s Iron Dog snowmobile race. Another was to a conference in New York lasting five hours for which Palin billed Alaska for airfare and five days in a hotel on Central Park for her and her daughter, Bristol. For airfare alone, Palin charged the state $21,012 for her daughters while in office.

Knowing this would look embarrassing, Palin amended her reports to make it seem as if her family’s presence was required. In fact, event organizers were surprised and had to scramble to accommodate her family.

The latest information on Palin adds to the emerging portrait of someone whose carefully cultivated image is at odds with the way she lives. Her brief tenure reveals a self-dealer who fires qualified enemies (Troopergate, her legislative director), hires unqualified friends (naming a former schoolmate who “likes cows” head of agriculture), and who went after the good old boys for cutting ethical corners she’d later cut herself.

Reality Bites

McCain may have believed that if he didn’t have time to vet her neither would anyone else. But reality caught up.

In the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released this week, voters cited the choice of Palin as their top concern ahead of McCain’s continuing President George W. Bush‘s policies.

A stunning 55 percent now think her unqualified to be president. Even as more people find her unsuited to the job, she’s enlarging it. She says that as vice president her duties would include being “in charge of the U.S. Senate.” The RNC should have spent its money for a tutorial on the Constitution.

In choosing Palin, McCain ignored the old rule to pander to your base in the primary and break their hearts in the general election. Palin was a gift to the already committed. A hunter- gatherer from the last frontier with a large family and knockout good looks, she even turned an out-of-wedlock pregnancy that could have put off evangelicals as an example of lax childrearing or Hollywood ethics into a story of teenagers in love doing the right thing.

Still Transfixed

Even as her negatives rise, the “real American” parts of the country are still transfixed. She delivered a boffo red-meat speech with a smile at the convention, then winked and hammed her way through the vice presidential debate. What she does well is hardly enough to compensate for what she does poorly.

In the short run, she made McCain happier than he’d been in months and served to remind people of his maverick side. But in the end his impulsive choice proved more reminiscent of the impetuous young McCain who hated authority, amassed demerits at the Naval Academy and ticked off colleagues as a grandstanding hothead.

The errors we make that hurt the most are the unforced ones. Palin cost McCain his standing with many Republicans and lost him the endorsement of his friend, Colin Powell, the man he called his “favorite living hero.” On “Meet the Press” last Sunday, Powell said Palin raised doubts about McCain. “I don’t believe she’s ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president.”

For all the experience 72 years has brought McCain, it hasn’t brought him good judgment. We didn’t know that before Palin. We know it now.

(Margaret Carlson, author of “Anyone Can Grow Up: How George Bush and I Made It to the White House” and former White House correspondent for Time magazine, is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

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Palin’s aides back charging state for kid’s travel
Associated Press Writers

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is allowed to charge taxpayers for her children’s commercial airline tickets because they represent the state wherever they go with her, the governor’s aides said Wednesday.

“There’s an expectation that the First Family participates in community activities,” said Sharon Leighow, the governor’s spokeswoman. “They are representing the First Family and the state of Alaska.”

Leighow and other Palin supporters defended the GOP vice presidential candidate’s use of $21,012 in state money to pay for her three daughters’ flights, after The Associated Press reported the practice on Tuesday. The AP reported that often the children were not invited to the events the governor attended, but she brought them anyway and charged the government.

The AP also reported that Palin ordered the children’s travel expense forms changed in August to add language claiming that they performed official state business on the trips. Alaska law allows governors to charge the state for their family’s travel if they conduct state business. State Finance Director Kim Garnero said the governor’s staff has the authority to make that determination.

But event organizers told the AP they were surprised when the girls showed up, and some said they had no role.

In all, the state paid for 64 one-way and 12 round-trip commercial flights for her daughters Bristol, 17, Willow, 14, and 7-year-old Piper. In some cases, Palin also charged the state for the girls’ hotel rooms. Palin did not file travel expenses for her oldest son, Track, or her infant son, Trig, who was born this past spring.

Most of the commercial flights ferried the daughters between the state capital in Juneau and Anchorage, which is 600 miles away and about 40 miles from the Palin home in Wasilla, travel records show.

For example, the girls flew to Anchorage from Juneau for the weekend on Feb. 9, 2007, with Palin charging the state $1,556.40 for their flights. Palin listed the girls’ attendance as “official starter” of the Iron Dog snowmobile race, which their father has competed in for 14 years.

The state paid the same amount for the three girls to spend a long weekend in Juneau in September 2007. Palin listed “First Family photos” as the official state business for that trip.

Taylor Griffin, a McCain-Palin campaign spokesman, said Palin followed the same practice as other governors whose children join them at functions. He added that Palin could have charged the state for her children’s meals, but didn’t.

Leighow also defended other state-paid trips the girls made. She provided to the AP on Wednesday an e-mail that the governor’s office received that invited Bristol to a five-hour New York conference in October 2007 that she attended with her mother. Palin charged the state $1,385.11 for her daughter’s flight. They shared a room for four nights in a luxury hotel on Central Park.

But the conference organizer said Bristol was only invited after the governor said she was bringing her.

“We told her we need to know her name so we can send her an invitation,” said Mark Block, external affairs director for Newsweek magazine, which hosted the event.

Palin’s calendar for one of those days in New York shows Bristol also attended the taping of MTV’s “Total Request Live” show, with a note saying “dress: very posh (evening wear).”

Griffin also said Palin reimbursed the state for the cost of two friends who accompanied Bristol and Willow on a flight on a state airplane in May 2007.

John Glass, the deputy public safety commissioner, said he was not aware of the friends’ flight until The Associated Press brought it to his attention, but the governor has the right to bring others on the plane.

“She has the ability to authorize people to travel with her,” Glass said. “That’s the end of the story.”

The flight that included the Palin children’s friends was among more than two dozen taken by the family on the state plane at a total cost of about $55,000. The family purchased commercial airline tickets when they couldn’t get access to that plane, which is used primarily to transport prisoners and law enforcement officials. The plane costs $971 an hour to operate.

Bill Tandeske, who served as public safety commissioner from 2003 to 2006 during Gov. Frank Murkowski’s administration, said the state plane should be used for official business only, not like a family station wagon.

“Is the use of a state asset for the governor’s husband and kids appropriate? I suggest not,” Tandeske said.

GOP spent $150,000 in donations on Palin’s look

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