WASHINGTON - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has charged the state a daily allowance, normally used for official travel, for more than 300 nights spent at her home, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
An analysis of travel statements filed by the governor, now John McCain's Republican running mate, shows she claimed the per diem allowance on 312 occasions when she was home in Wasilla and that she billed taxpayers $43,490 for travel by her husband and children.
Per diem payments are meant for meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business. State officials told The Post her claims - nearly $17,000 over 19 months - were permitted because her "duty station" is Juneau, and she was in Wasilla, 600 miles away.
Palin spends little time at the Governor's Mansion in Juneau, especially when the Legislature is out of session, and instead prefers to live in Wasilla and commute to her office in Anchorage.
Palin's spending and record in office are coming under intense scrutiny as she is presented to the nation as a champion of ethics reform and frugal use of tax dollars - a leader who put the state jet on sale on eBay and drives herself to work.
The Post's analysis shows her husband, Todd, and their daughters were reimbursed by taxpayers for many trips between Wasilla and Juneau as well as for a variety of other travel that was also listed as state business. Palin's aides said travel by Alaska's first family is part of the job.
But it's not clear when children's travel expenses should be covered. State Finance Director Kim Garnero told the paper the government covers the travel costs of anyone conducting state business and, "I can't imagine kids could be doing that."
Palin took her daughter, Bristol, to New York in October for a conference on women and leadership, a tour of the New York Stock Exchange and various meetings, the analysis shows. Travel costs included three nights in a hotel room costing more than $700 a night.
Overall, Palin's travel spending pales in comparison with that of predecessor Frank Murkowski, who charged $463,000 for air fare in 2006. Palin charged $93,000 in 2007.
Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said Tuesday that the governor is expected to travel frequently. "This is part of her job and it's only reasonable her travel expenses - which were reduced dramatically from the previous administration - would be covered," Schmitt said.