Alaska editorial: One complaint against Palin missed a point

Posted: Thursday, May 21, 2009

An investigator made short work last week of two ethics complaints against Gov. Sarah Palin. His conclusions made sense, given how the cases were framed.

But investigator Michael Geraghty and one of the complainants, Anthony Martin, never addressed one question about the governor's November trip to Georgia to campaign for Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

Why did the state of Alaska pay per diem expenses to Kris Perry, director of the governor's Anchorage office, for her time in Georgia?

According to spokeswoman Sharon Leighow, the Chambliss campaign covered travel and lodging expenses for the governor and Perry while they were in Georgia. But Leighow said the state paid per diem to Perry in Georgia because the trip qualified as state business.

State business? How's that?

The administration argues that Chambliss was a vote for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and his opponent wasn't.

We have no quarrel with Gov. Palin campaigning for someone outside Alaska. She's a national figure now.

But to describe her trip to Georgia as state business because Chambliss favors ANWR drilling is fig leaf cover at best. Supporting Alaska in a congressional issue is hardly grounds for using State of Alaska money to support one side in an election battle. With a standard that loose, a governor could spend an entire election season campaigning at state expense in all 435 House races and 33 Senate races,

Paying State of Alaska per diem for Kris Perry while she was with the governor on a campaign trip doesn't pass the red-face test.

The Georgia trip was partisan politics. None of that should happen on the state dime, including Perry's per diem.

Leighow argues that Gov. Palin is governor 24/7 and that Perry works for the governor. True. But that doesn't mean that everything Gov. Palin does is state business. The governor and her staff need to make that distinction with bright, clear lines.

Take a partisan political trip? Fine. Any of it on the state's tab? No.

The money at issue was minimal - $105. But here's the rub - while many of the ethics complaints against Palin have been silly, the Palin administration has failed to draw those bright, clear lines separating state, personal and partisan political business.

That diminishes trust in the governor. That's not good for Alaska. Or for the governor.

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