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Alaska officials dismiss complaint that alleged Palin improperly gained through reality show

Posted: August 3, 2011 - 9:22pm

ANCHORAGE — Alaska officials have dismissed an ethics complaint filed against former Gov. Sarah Palin that alleged she violated state law because the TLC docu-series “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” took advantage of a state film production incentives program she signed into law.

Malia Litman of Dallas filed the complaint in June with Alaska Attorney General John Burns. Litman also alleged Palin benefited from the production of the eight-part series in violation of a two-year moratorium that bars former officials from being compensated for assisting others in dealing with the state.

Palin resigned in July 2009, with 17 months left in her first term, citing in part ethics complaints she called frivolous. Her resignation came less than one year after she was tapped as the Republican vice presidential nominee. She is now publicly mulling whether to seek the presidency in the 2012 election.

Litman, 53, said she received the dismissal letter in the mail Tuesday. She said she is a retired trial lawyer and had thought the complaint was obviously warranted.

“I’m shocked,” she said Wednesday in a phone interview. “I think it’s so clear that she violated the law.”

Palin’s attorney, John Tiemessen, did not provide immediate comment.

Palin’s reality show was produced through Santa Monica, Calif.-based Jean Worldwide by Mark Burnett of “Survivor” reality TV show fame. Palin is credited in Internet Movie Database as an executive producer on three episodes.

The series was among productions that tapped Alaska’s new film production incentives program. Producers received a tax credit of nearly $1.2 million after spending about $3.6 million in the state, according to Alaska Film Office documents.

The documentary series attracted an average of more than 3 million viewers per episode and debuted with an audience of nearly 5 million people — a record premiere for TLC. It concluded in early January.

The dismissal letter to Litman said there’s no basis for her grievance.

“You have not alleged any specific action by Ms. Palin to assist Jean Worldwide in applying for the tax credit, only that she was involved in and compensated for making the film,” the letter states. “The action of signing the general legislation passed by the Alaska Legislature into law as governor does not bar Ms. Palin from working for a person who operates under that state law.”

As for the post-state employment allegation, the letter written by senior Assistant Attorney General Judy Bockmon acknowledged Alaska lawmakers amended state law to include work on legislation. However, there “was no suggestion that in doing so the legislature intended to change its original intent that the post-state employment bar be narrowly construed,” Bockmon wrote.

That means it does not apply in every case, she wrote, but only to employment connected to the “same” matter a former official participated on during state service. Any new, future work is treated as a new matter.

Palin reportedly was seeking as much as $1.5 million per episode in pitching the show last year, according to The Hollywood Reporter. TLC, a division of Discovery Communications, has refused to divulge how much Palin was paid.

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