Complaint over Palin's mining comment dismissed

Posted: Sunday, May 10, 2009

ANCHORAGE - A state panel has dismissed a complaint that accused Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin of breaking election law by taking a public position on a mining ballot initiative days before the vote.

The Alaska Public Offices Commission voted unanimously Friday to reject the claim filed by Brian Kraft.

Kraft has said it was illegal for Palin to announce that she opposed the measure aimed at limiting pollution at the Pebble Mine gold and copper prospect in Bristol Bay. The initiative called for tougher pollution discharge requirements for large mines.

Palin had said she was taking off her "governor's hat" when she announced her opposition six days before the vote.

Kraft, a lodge owner, is the founder of the Bristol Bay Alliance, a group that opposes the mine.

The public offices commission, whose four members were appointed by Palin, said state law does not address whether public officials can express an opinion on ballot measures.

The panel also voiced its concern "with the free speech implications of a ruling that attempts to regulate what the governor can say."

Two of the commissioners are Democrats and two are Republicans.

Also on Friday, another ethics complaint filed was dismissed by the Alaska Personnel Board.

The complaint was filed in April by Anchorage resident Sondra Tompkins, who alleged Palin violated ethics rules by accepting outside employment with her political action committee.

Thomas Van Flein, Palin's attorney, said 14 ethics complaints have been filed against the governor or her staff and nine have been resolved without any finding that the law was broken. Van Flein said five complaints are still pending.

To settle one of the nine complaints, Palin did agree to repay the state for 10 trips taken by her children.

Palin has said she has amassed more than $500,000 in legal bills fighting the complaints as well as other matters. A legal expense fund has been set up on her behalf.

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