Palin backers set up legal defense fund to defend ethics complaints

Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Supporters have set up a fund to help Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin pay off more than $500,000 in legal fees for defending herself against ethics complaints.

The Alaska Fund Trust was created by Alaskans to help Palin challenge an onslaught of "baseless accusations" filed against the former Republican vice presidential candidate, supporters said.

"There's a lot of good folks who have come together to help the governor respond to these frivolous complaints that have really distracted her," said Kristan Cole, the fund's trustee and a personal friend of Palin. "Our goal is to pay the legal expenses to allow her to get back to the business of being governor, which is what we elected her for."

At least a dozen ethics complaints have been filed against Palin. The latest, submitted Wednesday by Anchorage resident Sondra Tompkins, claims Palin's work with her political action committee violates state ethics laws.

Another Anchorage woman, who has filed four of the claims against Palin and her top aides, said the fund trust itself appears to be an ethics violation. Andree McLeod said the fund could be construed as an improper gift potentially worth millions of dollars.

"If there isn't a law against the collection of that kind of money for that kind of improper motivation by a sitting governor, there sure as hell should be," she said.

Earlier this month, a Texas man established an unofficial Web site soliciting donations for the governor's legal fees, but Palin representatives said at the time that she couldn't accept the money. The Alaska trust is the only legal fund authorized by Palin, according to family spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton.

"Gov. Palin is truly humbled by the tremendous outpouring of support from her fellow Alaskans and the wonderful people across our great country," Stapleton said. "With the success of this trust, Gov. Palin will be able to continue getting results for the people of Alaska without these unnecessary distractions."

Cole said the fund has numerous restrictions, including a $150 contribution limit from Americans only. The fund will not accept donations from foreign nationals, lobbyists, unions or corporations.

Contributing heavily to Palin's legal debts was the Troopergate probe last fall.

The Alaska Legislature investigated whether Palin and aides pressured the state's public safety commissioner to fire a state trooper involved in a contentious divorce with Palin's sister, and whether Palin fired the commissioner, Walt Monegan, because he would not do so.

Palin said Monegan was ousted over budget disagreements.

Soon after she was named as John McCain's running mate, Palin said the investigation had become too partisan and she filed an ethics grievance against herself with the Alaska Personnel Board, which investigates ethics complaints.

A legislative council found that Palin had abused her office by allowing her husband and aides to pressure Monegan but the firing was legal since the commissioner was an at-will employee. The separate personnel board investigation found there was no probable cause to believe Palin or any other state official violated ethics laws.

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