Saturday 25 July 2009

Looking at $arah Palin's legal fund from a criminal law perspective

I received a very interesting e-mail regarding the Alaska Fund Trust website, the AFT agreement and how the two together may have implications in Alaska criminal law.

The AFT website, which exists to solicit donations to the fund, states in the FAQs page:
9. Can the funds be used for personal purposes?

No. Donations can only be used for legal expenses incurred by counsel on behalf of the Governor, her family, and staff as approved by the Trustee.

13. Why is this fund being created?

The Trust Fund is being created to assist the Governor, her family, and staff in paying legal expenses and costs incurred from previous investigations as well as future complaints filed. Her staff is similarly being targeted by these complaints and has also incurred and is incurring significant costs.

As we have previously seen, the agreement fails to state that the purpose of the trust fund is to pay legal expenses, saying instead that its exclusive purpose is to provide a proper means for the acceptance of money, property, and services, including, if necessary, pro bono legal services, to provide for all reasonable, necessary, and appropriate fees or charges incurred by (i) SARAH PALIN as a result of the fact that she is Governor of the State of Alaska or as a result of the performance of her duties as Governor of the State of Alaska; and (ii) Covered Individuals, that may be selected or designated by the Trustee as provided herein, as a result of or arising out of their association or relationship with or employment by SARAH PALIN, in her capacity as Governor of the State of Alaska.

Further, it includes a clause regarding rights of withdrawal up to the maximum yearly amount to fall within the Federal Gift Tax exclusion. It applies to each beneficiary and shall be exercisable only by written notice to Trustee of the amount Donee wishes to withdraw, but no purpose for said withdrawal need be shown.

I'm sorry if I keep quoting the text of the agreement in so many posts, but bear with me, here comes the juicy bit:

Alaska Statutes 11.46.100 defines an assortment of theft crimes, including alternative means of committing theft which include a person who: "(1) with intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate property of another to oneself or a third person, . . .obtains the property of another; (2) the person commits theft of lost or mislaid property under AS 11.46.160; (3) the person commits theft by deception under AS 11.46.180; (4) the person commits theft by receiving under AS 11.46.190; (5) the person commits theft of services under AS 11.46.200; [or] (6) the person commits theft by failure to make required disposition of funds received or held under AS 11.46.210."

In turn, for example, theft by deception (false pretenses) is defined in Alaska Statutes11.46.180: "(a) A person commits theft by deception if, with intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate property of another to oneself or a third person, the person obtains the property of another by deception."

"Deception," in turn, is defined in Alaska Statutes 11.81.900(18); while it "does not include falsity as to matters having no pecuniary significance," is fairly broadly defined to include: "knowingly (A) creat[ing] or confirm[ing] another's false impression that the defendant does not believe to be true, including false impressions as to law or value and false impressions as to intention or other state of mind; (B) fail[ing] to correct another's false impression that the defendant previously has created or confirmed; (C) prevent[ing] another from acquiring information pertinent to the disposition of the property or service involved; (D) sell[ing] or otherwise transfer[ring] or encumber[ing] property and fail[ing] to disclose a lien, adverse claim, or other legal impediment to the enjoyment of the property, whether or not that impediment is a matter of official record; or (E) promis[ing] performance that the defendant does not intend to perform or knows will not be performed."

Summing up: the website soliciting donations states that the money raised will be used only to pay certain legal expenses. The agreement says no such thing. The website states the money cannot be used for personal purposes. The agreement contains a clause that says otherwise.

Perhaps it would help clarify things if an Alaskan citizen or person from elsewhere who contributed to this fund would challenge the whole arrangement in a court of law--or if an impartial Alaskan prosecutor would investigate the matter under state criminal law.

An important point: the State of Alaska is obliged to prosecute any appropriate criminal action. The victims and witnesses in a criminal action should bear no costs whatsoever. Prosecuting authorities bring those cases not on "behalf of" a given victim but on behalf of all the people of the State of Alaska, against whom criminal activities are considered a transgression. A larceny is not viewed so much as an offense against the individual as against the community.

There's more.

A little more food for thought regarding official pronouncements from a certain governor's associates concerning the purposes of this "trust fund": it appears that where a "trust fund" has been set up expressly to counteract citizen requests for clarification of state ethics laws (including at least some number of them under pending investigation at the time) and to deter additional lawful citizen filings essentially by pre-judging every one of them as "frivolous" and unworthy of the Board's attention, attention should be paid under both federal civil rights laws and state law.

Where representatives of the subject of any such request for clarification expressly invites a "backlash" against citizens who exercise their rights to file such requests for clarification, it seems that there should be some consideration of whether other Alaska laws apply.

Under Alaska Statutes 11.56.510, interference with official proceedings is a class B felony:

"(a) A person commits the crime of interference with official proceedings if the person

(1) uses force on anyone, damages the property of anyone, or threatens anyone with intent to
(A) improperly influence a witness or otherwise influence the testimony of a witness;
(B) influence a juror's vote, opinion, decision, or other action as a juror;
(C) retaliate against a witness or juror because of participation by the witness or juror in an official proceeding; or (D) otherwise affect the outcome of an official proceeding; or

(2) confers, offers to confer, or agrees to confer a benefit
(A) upon a witness with intent to improperly influence that witness; or
(B) upon a juror with intent to influence the juror's vote, opinion, decision, or other action as a juror or otherwise affect the outcome of an official proceeding."

I have emphasized the relevant bits of the statutes that apply in this case and it appears the website presents the purpose of the trust fund as one thing while the trust fund agreement presents a very different one, thus at least arguably leading people to part with money, services or property under false pretenses.

The purpose of the fund, as stated on the website, together with several press releases from the governor's office, her twits, etc, may infringe the civil rights of the citizens of Alaska both under state law and federal law.

This post was possible thanks to invaluable input from a criminal prosecutor. Thanks SG, we owe you!


Anonymous said...

Brilliant! Thank you Regina and SG!

Also, what is with the contradictions between the claim of $150.00 dollar limits and the Memorandum clarifying document that lifts that limit?

ProChoiceGrandma said...

BRAVO Regina, and a very special thanks to sg!
Sarah Palin's Deceptions are numerous. This slush fund is just one of her many deceptions.

ProChoiceGrandma said...

I have posted a link to your article on HuffPo.

Anonymous said...

Well now, is there an Alaskan who will follow through with what you have laid out? A court of law is where this AFT should end up. Would be a shame if no one acts on this info.

Thanks Regina

SG said...

Just to clarify, this is just some possibly relevant state law.

Where funds/property are being solicited intrastate and by means of the internet, a wealth of federal criminal laws (including tax laws with potential criminal penalties) also may apply.

Stay tuned for some of that information!

BuffaloGal said...

Very interesting !!

I imagine you wake up sometimes in the middle of the night in a big ol' "AHA ! " moment. So many issues and pieces to connect.

What a terribly tiring woman she is!

Thank you for this news on Screen Door Saturday. Salute !

SG said...

That should be "interstate," of course.

Sorry, everyone. More caffeine needed.

Kat said...

Brava Regina - Many thanks SG! You've answered the many questions I've had about this slush fund since I first read it. I've always felt it was illegal in so many ways, but you spell out exactly why & what can be done.

Please, please, please someone in AK set the wheels in motion for criminal charges.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 20:27--

That's a great question: it looks like the $13,000 section might have been cut & pasted from a traditional trust instrument where you would have potential income tax issues with gift deductions maximized for a single donor (or a donor couple filing jointly).

The way I read it is that the $150and the $13,000 refer to completely different things: supposedly an individual contribution can be up to $150 ("coincidentally" any amount above that would be required to be reported as a gift to a public official under state law).

But the public official who is the named beneficiary, and any other beneficiaries (family members, etc.) can make a yearly withdrawal (on demand, with no evident restriction on the purpose to which the $ is put) up to the maximum non-taxable "gift" amount allowed under the Tax Code for that year (currently 13 grand a year). If you've got, say, eight possible beneficiaries in the public official's household alone, that's over a hundred grand they potentially can take out every year for whatever purposes the adults want.

The money may come in by $150 increments, but the terms of the "Trust" seem to allow it to flood back out in far, far bigger amounts.

So a "giver" can give $150, but a "taker" can take much more, every single year.

Anonymous said...

It would be the icing on the cake if Shannyn set the wheels in motion.

sjk from the belly of the plane said...

Mail and wire fraud?

basheert said...

Hey guys- just to interject here. The citations are great but this stuff is really a bear to prove.

Legally we can give $26,000 to ANYONE (as a couple) - including to the Trust,by simply paying the Gift Tax. There is also the Lifetime exemption (not sure what it is this year) - we just have to pay a Gift Tax. The recipient is not required to pay income tax, but is required to REPORT it I believe.

This was set originally for individuals to give tax free gifts to their kids - NOT POLITICIANS. There are ways of getting around this - such as paying a son's car payment on VISA by check, etc, that don't trigger the Gift Tax accumulation.

As I said, the original intent was for families to be able to pass money to their family members without paying taxes. Obviously the Trust has chosen to solicit funds using the Gift Tax verbage, interstate, for the benefit of $arah's "family".

Legally I suspect she is on firm ground - but I also agree that there should be a tax implication for receiving funds to pay off personal bills via solicitation. It should be reportable by them and taxable as income -

She will get around it by having the funds sent direct to creditors and having no direct contact with the funds. (Similar to rolling a 401(k) into an IRA). It's a loophole, a good one by intent though.

I'm not sure the IRS looks at it in a bad way - because the fact is, it is allowed. Yes it's cheating, skating, walking on the edge and really sort of skanky (sorta like $arah).

I don't know how much different it is than politicians receiving gifts from Lobbyists. And Trusts are funny instruments. They were designed to avoid taxes (I'm sure like us that some of you have Living Trusts so the Feds don't get your money- but your kids do).

I hope it's taxable to them - and at the very least, that someone has to show a bill has been paid, but I think Gov Grifter has found a loophole that will let her walk away with a ton of money. Sorry.

I hope sincerely that I am wrong.

(Another funny thing about Trusts, if you have one and want to make a change, please do it and do it right. We've tried to bust one for years - so far we've been able to access it (which was the intent) but it is under extremely tight control. We've tried to grab it for our kids ... and are having a difficult time, even though they could really USE it right now and they are the ULTIMATE beneficiaries.

Write your Trusts well - they are not an easy instrument to deal with.

Anonymous said...

From a first-hand report from the Anchorage picnic over at the Sea4Pee:

"Sarah was back there dishing up food for 2 hours with a bright smile. I didn't see her family but Kristin Cole was alongside the whole time."

Hmmm . . .

Lisabeth said...

They were coverinf this on CNN today. They had a reporter up in Alaska covering her leaving. The reporter stated that none of the ethics charges had any "national traction" and would not effect her. This really bothered me because some haven't even been decided yet!! He was very dismissive of them! And Sarah whines about the media nit covering things! She has lied and lied and used the word frivilous so many times I find the media just takes it. CNN especially does not work very hard to investigate the truth.

That is why someone or multiple people have to file lawsuits. Palin gets away with everything. She is a horrible human being. Regina keep up the good work.

jo said...

She should have to show proof she has $600,000 in legal bills as she claims. She over inflated the cost to the state by more than one million seven hundred dollars, it would stand to reason her other figure is greatly overstated as well. She must be stopped, I believe in God, but these nuts can't be allowed to take over our country. Someday they will be shocked to find out that God did not want them to use him the way they are. A loving God does not want people to lie, cheat, steal, and kill in his name.

sjk from the belly of the plane said...

Mail fraud. Wire Fraud.....

basheert said...

No wedding right...???


Is he shagging Megan???

Helen said...

The reality is, she's out of office and will never never hold office again, unless something goes really seriously wrong with America, like Dick Cheney getting elected President!

Anonymous said...

From HuffPo:


Sarah Palin should now have plenty of time to answer these ten questions regarding her income, taxes, expenses she charged to the state, etc. posed by David Cay Johnston back in October of 2008- very interesting questions indeed:

Posted 11:08 PM on 07/25/2009


wow . . .
and I guess it would explain the ONLY Lien note in a "public Record":

. . . which show the SAME Sports Complex CONTRACTOR (and sponsor of Todds Racing "Team") as the LIEN HOLDER on the Palin Construction LOAN!!!!!

Helen said...

Interesting comment on HuffPo:

Sarah Palin is certainly no stranger to the Alaskan justice system. Just for fun, I typed in "Palin" in Alaska Trial Court web site and bunch of cases popped up.

Between Bristol, Track, Todd and Sarah, there are 18 court cases.

Of interest was that Governor Palin pleaded "no contest" to a charge in the criminal court and paid $1000 fine in 1993. Criminal Negligence?

The case is "3DI-93-00249CR State of Alaska vs. Palin Ms, Sarah"

Does anyone know what this Statute is?

Does it make Sarah Palin a criminal?


Helen, I know nothing about statutes, it looks like it has to do with fishing. Wrong size holes in a fish net? That is important in Alaska because of the wildlife. It is also common for Alaskans to violate these regulations. She pleaded down to a misdemeanor and paid a grand.

Did you see the Alaska Report? Request Investigation of Palin Administration
I hope this doesn't get swept under the rug. What does Palin have against food safety?
It would be very interesting to learn what happened to Dochtermann's report and all he so gallantly tried to make known. " was too political..." to start an investigation? It is not the first time her whole operation appears to be run as a crime family.

Anonymous said...

I believe the charge in '93 was for fishing without a license.. She used to spend a lot of time at the bars back then.. She was a fixture at a bar called the 4corners between Wasilla and Palmer, I used to see her there frequently.. I guess that was before she became a liar for jesus

EyeOnYou said...


Your post was excellent, and great research done. However, an attorney addressed this matter on mudflats and stated that the problem with the "criminal" aspect of it is intent, and that is much harder to prove, and the standards for proof are much greater.

You would have to prove that Palin not only knew about this fund in totality, but also deliberately intended to set out to defraud people. Neither of which would be easy to prove, and personally I don't think that Palin set out to defraud people.

It still would be interesting to have someone knowledgeable on Alaska criminal law weigh in on this, for their perspective and knowledge.

Anonymous said...

I pratice criminal law. In 100% of the criminal trials I've been involved in and in which proof of criminal intent is an element of the crime(s), that proof is inferential: I have yet to see a criminal defendant admit specific criminal intent.

In a case involving a larceny or other property crime, the easiest way to prove criminal intent is by inference, starting with who derived financial benefit.

For example, if (1) someone says she's out-of-pocket half a million dollars in legal fees; (2) a fund is set up by which to pay those supposed legal fees; (3) there is evidence that those legal fees either don't exist as represented and/or aren't the sole recipients of the funds people parted with based on those statements.....I don't have much trouble making a criminal case.

Anonymous said...

For SJK (more to come!):

Alaska has its own "scheme to defraud" criminal prohibition as well, and there's the trusty federal standby mail fraud act:

"Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises . . . [uses the mail commits a felony]"’ 18 U.S.C. & No. 21; 1341.

Lisabeth said...

Why are so many of these super religious ( supposedly) people so crooked and such liars. This is in response to what Jo wrote. I am not Christian but I have studied the teachings of Jesus and hevwould not condone most of Sarah Palin's political actions. I can't speak for personal but she does lie nonstop. Her outright lying is incredibly disturbing to me. I have not been reading or going on Twitter much because she and her followers make me sick.

They act like they are superior to everyone else and the way they treat President Obama is disgusting and unAmerican. From what I can tell he is a moral man in his words and actions.Sarah is not moral at all.
The country would be better off if the greedy self/serving, corporate ass kissing Republicans like Sarah went away. They are so full of crap! Most are not even admitting there is a problem with health care in our country. It makes me sick. I sincerely hope Sarah stays out of politics. She treated Alaskans like crap and most of America knows she is not capable of being president.

Sorry for my rant but the hypocrisy is astounding! A big celebration for a governor that walked off the job!! She is STILL telling the 2 million dollar lie and the media just repeats it. She QUIT her job because she sucked at it and resented it's limitations to her. She waned to do whatever the F she wanted including making more money. Some Alaskans need to sue her but I doubt they will.

jo said...

If she attempts to run for any office, great emphasis needs to be placed on AIP and especially Seven Mountains. She would fit right in on C Street in Washington. Those involved in this group should be voted out too. Make no mistake they have a massive agenda to overtake the world and have complete dominion over it.