ANCHORAGE - An FBI spokesman took the unusual step Sunday of declaring that Gov. Sarah Palin is not under investigation, an announcement prompted by rumors to the contrary on many Web sites.
"We are not investigating her," said FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez. "Normally we don't confirm or deny those kinds of allegations out there but by not doing so it just casts her in a very bad light. There is just no truth to those rumors out there in the blogosphere."
His statement follows a Saturday letter from Gov. Sarah Palin's personal attorney denouncing rumors Palin resigned because she is under criminal investigation, and threatening legal action for publishing "defamatory" material about the governor.
"I can say definitively I am aware of no criminal investigation whatsoever involving Sarah Palin. Zero," Palin's attorney, Thomas Van Flein, said in a phone interview as he attended the Fourth of July festivities on the Delaney Park Strip in Anchorage.
Earlier in the day, Palin's personal spokeswoman, Meg Stapleton, sent out a statement from Van Flein attacking "false and defamatory allegations that the 'real' reasons for Governor Palin's resignation stem from an alleged criminal investigation pertaining to the construction of the Wasilla Sports Complex."
Rumors Palin steered contracts for the 2003 construction of the Wasilla Sports Complex before leaving office as Wasilla mayor the previous fall, in return for work building her home about the same time, have been around at least since the vice presidential campaign last fall.
They have resurfaced on many Web sites following her abrupt announcement she will resign from office in three weeks. Palin's house, almost 3,500 square feet with four bedrooms and four baths, is on a two-acre site along scenic Lake Lucille in Wasilla and is assessed at $532,500.
Van Flein wrote in his Saturday letter the Palin family built the Lake Lucille house using Palin's husband, Todd, as general contractor. It said Todd "is no stranger to construction.
"The Palins used a combination of personal savings, equity from the sale of their private home, and conventional bank financing to build the house, like millions of American families," Van Flein wrote
Van Flein's letter threatening legal action specifically pointed the finger at Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore as "most notably" claiming as "fact" that Palin resigned under federal investigation.
Van Flein, asked why he singled out Moore, said it's because she went on national television and talked about it. Moore was on with MSNBC's David Shuster on Friday, the day Palin said she will resign.
"There is a scandal rumor here that there is a criminal investigation into some activities and that's been rumored for about, I don't know, probably six weeks or two months," Moore told him.
She said she's never seen Palin appear as nervous as she did at the press conference announcing her resignation and "I think she was actually doing damage control for news that's coming up later."
Moore came back fighting Sunday. The 39-year-old single mother and housepainter criticized Palin as a "bully" for threatening to sue her, especially on the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Moore, who was born in Alaska, said she feels it is her right to question the activities of elected officials and will continue to do so long after Palin has left office.
"For me to state my opinion about what is happening on the ground in Alaska when the governor resigns is completely within my right," Moore told The Associated Press, shortly before taking to the steps outside the governor's Anchorage office Sunday afternoon.
In his letter, Van Flein wrote "we will be exploring legal options this week to address such defamation." The Associated Press reported that he said Sunday the governor has no plans to sue at this time.
Van Flein's letter cites the freedom of speech clause in the Alaska Constitution, and its statement that "every person may freely speak, write, and publish on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right."
Anchorage attorney Peter Maassen, who last fall successfully defended legislators sued in an effort to stop the "Troopergate" investigation of the governor, said Van Flein would have an extremely hard time winning any legal action.
"If (Palin) is actually a public figure, which clearly she is, there has to be actual malice involved, in my understanding of defamation law. That would be very hard to prove. ... It's a very, very high bar if it is a public figure," he said.
Moore said she always characterized it as rumors and never claimed it was fact. She said she has no idea if Palin is under investigation for the construction of her house or anything else, but the governor's resignation from office was so out of character it's raising questions about what's going on.
"I haven't defamed the governor, I reported on speculation and rumor in Alaska. ... It's not my rumor; it's been out there for 10 months and the First Amendment protects me," Moore said. "Even if I didn't say it's 'rumors and speculation,' I'm still protected - I would just lose credibility, which I'm not willing to do."
In her comments outside the governor's office, Moore renewed her criticism, The Associated Press reported.
"Sarah Palin, if you have a problem with me, then sue me. Shannyn Moore will not be muzzled," she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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