Sunday, 20 February 2011

Sarah Palin's Travelgate

In May 2009 I wrote a post which I labeled Travelgate. Here are some passages from that post:

Oct 2008 Palin office defends charging state for children's travel

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."

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.

Feb 2009 Palin to reimburse state for family travel

Gov. Sarah Palin has agreed to reimburse the state nearly $10,000 to cover assorted costs related to various trips taken by her children in 2007 and 2008, but she's not admitting that she did anything wrong.

"I am gratified that this settlement explicitly recognizes and establishes that I broke no laws or ethics rules.

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."

Since the original post appeared, a big batch of e-mails were published and a few of them look very interesting in the context of Travelgate.

Erika Fagerstrom was Todd Palin's assistant and her job appears to have been finding purposes for family travel and making sure they were properly reimbursed for travel and per diems.

Erika did her best to find a purpose for any travel, even if she had to bend things a little bit.

Sarah Palin appears to have been a more loving mother back then than she seems to be now and arranged her schedule around the children. When asked about attending a certain event, her reply was quite touching.

This conflict between Sarah Palin's duties and her desire to spend time with her children doesn't point to very effective multi-tasking.

Alaska is a very big state and having a home far from one's place of work can be very expensive if the person needs to move family members between the two places in order to spend some time with them.

Does it justify the Palins using the state as travel agents and finding "purposes" for what was in fact ordinary travel? Sarah Palin's emphasis on the First Family and their state duties seems to be an attempt to blur the boundaries between state and normal family business. Why should the state have paid for her multi-tasking and for spending time with her large, loving family?

I would think there are many more instances of abusing the system than were found in the investigation by Tim Petumenos.

The fact remains that, despite state rules, there are tax liabilities attached to family travel and per diems.

In an article dated October 5, 2008, Jack Bogdanski discusses this very subject:

There is no question whatsoever that the payments for the Palin children's travel -- $24,728.83 -- were indeed taxable to Governor Palin. The money paid for Todd Palin's travel -- $18,761.37 -- might possibly turn out to be tax-free, but it would be quite a stretch. And the per diems and other travel payments to the governor herself ($16,951) may or may not be taxable, but certainly not because state law or the state payroll office says so.

Sarah Palin managed to twist and wriggle around the rules of the state of Alaska and certain practices relating to money and expenses continue in her Sarah Pac operation to this day (not to mention her legal funds).

Sarah Palin's grifting appears to be a way of life, does it not?