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More Questions Than Answers On Palin’s “Reimbursement” Mess

Still more odd questions without good answers from the Palin financial disclosures. For starters:

…One event was in New York City in October 2007, when Bristol accompanied the governor…The state paid for three nights in a $707-a-day hotel room. Garnero said the governor’s office has the authority to approve hotel stays above $300.

Asked Monday about the official policy on charging for children’s travel expenses, Garnero said: "We cover the expenses of anyone who’s conducting state business. I can’t imagine kids could be doing that."

So, what official business was the governor’s daughter conducting for which the state reimbursed her? Oh wait, maybe there’s a loophole:

But Leighow said many of the hundreds of invitations Palin receives include requests for her to bring her family, placing the definition of "state business" with the party extending the invitation.

Oh, goodie. Shouldn’t someone ask if there is any oversight mechanism on this? Otherwise, if you know the person issuing the invitation, then you can ask them to add "please bring your family," and it’s off to a state-paid boondoggle. Posh!

One such invitation came in October 2007, when Willow flew to Juneau to join the Palin family on a tour of the Hub Juneau Christian Teen Center, where Palin and her family worship when they are in Juneau. The state gave the center $25,000, according to a May 2008 memo.

Wow, charging the state to give your daughter a tour of her own family church? Ballsy. And wouldn’t you like to know how the Palin’s Juneau family church was the lucky recipient of such state largesse? I know I would. Praise the Lord, and pass the state-sponsored collection plate.

How about this?

The family also charged for flights around the state, including…the Iron Dog snowmobile race, a contest that Todd Palin won.

Sweeeeet! Next time I attend a family event, I’ll send a bill to my state government and see if they reimburse me, too. Honestly, I can see reimbursing the governor’s expenses if it’s a major state tourist attraction, she’s shooting off the starter’s pistol, or handing out awards or doing some official gubernatorial schmoozing.

But paying for the entire family to fly up and watch daddy’s race at the state’s expense? Sounds like dipping into the public trough for a family trip to me. And this?

Meanwhile, Todd Palin spent $725 to fly to Edmonton, Alberta, for "information gathering and planning meeting with Northern Alberta Institute of Technology," according to an expense report. During the three-day trip, he charged the state $291 for his per diem. A notation said "costs paid by Dept. of Labor."

Todd Palin, non-employee of the State of Alaska, who works in the oil business? Reimbursed by the Dept. of Labor and not the Governor’s office, so he wasn’t acting in his "first spouse" capacity but in one where the Dept. of Labor paid? That one’s awfully weird.

Who authorized the trip? What expertise did Todd Palin have that lent him to this? Was he under state contract or some other written agreement? What were his duties while there? Was he authorized to negotiate any deal or discuss terms of any reciprocal agreements on behalf of the state? Doesn’t Alaska have a nepotism policy? (The answer is yes.) Shouldn’t someone ask all of this?

And while they are talking with someone from the Dept. of Labor, ask why Todd Palin received so many of Sarah Palin’s personnel matter e-mails, despite having no formal role in her administration, when state regulations clearly say that information is to be kept confidential. Can you say "rules for thee, but not for me?" Haven’t we had enough of that?

But maybe the Palins had no idea what the state rules were, and this is all just a big misunderstanding and they could have had no way of knowing, right? Ooopsie:

In the past, per diem claims by Alaska state officials have carried political risks. In 1988, the head of the state Commerce Department was pilloried for collecting a per diem charge of $50 while staying in his Anchorage home, according to local news accounts. The commissioner, the late Tony Smith, resigned amid a series of controversies.

"It was quite the little scandal," said Tony Knowles, the Democratic governor from 1994 to 2000. "I gave a direction to all my commissioners if they were ever in their house, whether it was Juneau or elsewhere, they were not to get a per diem because, clearly, it is and it looks like a scam — you pay yourself to live at home," he said.

Knowles, whose children were school-age at the start of his first term, said that his wife sometimes accompanied him to conferences overseas but that he could "count on one hand" the number of times his children accompanied him.

"And the policy was not to reimburse for family travel on commercial airlines, because there is no direct public benefit to schlepping kids around the state," he said. The rules were articulated by Mike Nizich, then director of administrative services in the governor’s office, said Knowles and an aide to another former governor, Walter Hickel.

Nizich is now Palin’s chief of staff.

Somebody has some ‘splaining to do. On a whole lot of issues at once. I hear she likes moose, but it sure looks like she’d prefer some personal pork. Heckuva job on the vetting, McCain. Awesome attention to detail.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com