Sarah Palin treated the State of Alaska as a travel agent until she had to refund the state for some of her children's travel expenses. Her staff were very helpful, coming up with various "purposes" for the children's trips around Alaska and further afield so the Palins could be reimbursed.
Later her website added a page regarding invitations that specifically asked whether the First Family was invited to events.
Sarah Palin's own statement at the time contradicts earlier assertions that her children travelled on the state dime for state related business:
"This is a big state, and I am obligated to -- and intend to -- keep Alaskans informed and meet with them as much as I can, from Barrow to Marshall to Ketchikan, at the same time, I am blessed to have a large and loving family, and the discharge of my duties should not prevent me from spending time with them. I will do so in accordance with the upcoming rewrite of regulations concerning travel expenses, and despite those who would crimp me from fulfilling either my obligations to the state or my obligations to my family."
Were the children government officials or simply part of her large and loving family? Most of their trips were considered valid as state business and Sarah Palin had to reimburse the state for just a fraction of them, around $10,000.
Yet she defended herself by saying "I am blessed to have a large and loving family, and the discharge of my duties should not prevent me from spending time with them."
Piper was the record breaker, with the most air miles. Of all Palin children, Piper used to be the clear favourite, appearing with Sarah at numerous events and being the recipient of some genuine affection from her mom. The only downside is that Piper didn't seem to attend school on a regular basis long before the vice presidential campaign in 2008.
Looking back (without prejudice) at the Palins before August 2008, they appeared to be a normal family, even though they had very hectic lives and were sometimes scattered across a very large state due to their mother's position.
Sarah Palin's run for the vice presidency was the worst thing that happened in these children's lives. Their family life went from hectic and slightly chaotic to utterly dysfunctional overnight.
Track may have escaped the worst, becoming the dutiful child fighting for American's freedom of speech in Iraq.
Bristol was quickly thrown under the bus and her pregnancy with Tripp was used by the campaign as an alibi for Sarah's rumoured faked pregnancy with Trig. Since then, Bristol has become a gossip magazine darling, retroactive virgin and a drama queen in a federal court.
Willow has the lowest profile, perhaps because of her age and for being the middle child. One memorable incident was her depiction as the victim of statutory rape in the Letterman fiasco. More recently, Willow was seen in the "locust" episode when the Palins and entourage descended on a gifting suite of a pre-Oscar event and had a jolly good time.
Piper lost her place as the favourite child to Trig and was relegated to the role of babysitter and provider of some cute moments. She's quite at ease with the crowds and gives autographs quite happily. Again, Piper missed a lot of classes during the campaign and book tour. The trend seemed set to continue until Alan Grayson made a remark about his own kid being in school.
Trig was the centerpiece of the Going Rogue book tour. The little guy worked very hard to please the crowds, on one occasion appearing late at night in a diaper and sweatshirt, facing the elements, the noise and the chaos with admirable aplomb. Trig was last seen in public in December 2009 while on a short vacation in Hawaii. The only other event involving Trig since then was a "vicious attack" directed at him on an episode of Family Guy. According to some, Trig is now living with aunt Heather in Anchorage...
So, the mother who was prepared to bend a few rules in order to be around her children, from Barrow to Marshall to Ketchikan, has to be content with covering the whole of the United States (and parts of Canada) with fewer opportunities to be around her large and loving family.
Is the pile of dollars Sarah Palin made so far a reasonable substitute for a family? Are the lives of the Palin children any better than they were before July 2009, when their mother quit as governor of Alaska to make some serious money?
How they must dream of those days when mom made a modest $125,000 a year but they could regularly see her in the flesh instead of a TV screen...
Some recent unrelated articles about Sarah Palin:
Palin's lawyer says another ethics complaint dismissed
Palin email witness decries 'dog and pony' prosecution
Sarah Palin Accuses Obama of Using AZ Immigration Law to Incite People
Does Anyone Know the Real Sarah Palin?
Strip Joint Hosts Palin Look-a-Like Contest
Good article about bloggers:
New Study: Liberals More Open Than Conservatives Online