When Linda Kellen told me last winter that she was going to file an ethics complaint with the State of Alaska about then-Governor Sarah Palin, parading around in personalized gear from the snowmachine manufacturer Arctic Cat, while representing the State as chief executive, I agreed that Linda had an issue.
Along with Linda, I felt this was a violation of our state’s ethics statutes.
I told her then that I wanted to concentrate more on getting state law pertaining to conduct of public officials to be more transparent. Alaska is the least "sunshiny" of states when it comes to oversight of elected officials, and I felt that her complaint would go nowhere, and might keep Alaska bloggers and other citizen activists from concentrating on more important issues.
I was wrong.
The ramifications of Linda’s Arctic Cat complaint are still playing out, even three months after Palin quit her job, so that she could go out and start a third party movement or a new religion, or something else.
Linda’s actions in the way the Arctic Cat complaint is playing out may have had more to do with Palin’s resignation than any other set of events. Combined with activist Andree McLeod’s continuing questions on chief executive accountability, Linda’s remorseless peskiness is one of the highest achievements of our notorious Alaska bloggers.
This past week, Palin’s people have filed her final Public Officer Financial Disclosure. It is incomplete, dishonest and may be so rife with enough purposeful lies, to be material evidence for a Federal or State of Alaska criminal indictment.
Linda has written two essays at Celtic Diva’s Blue Oasis on the disclosure report. The first concentrates on the omission of information about Palin’s legal defense fund, the Alaska Fund Trust. Palin doesn’t even list the Trust as a financial interest, yet it was formed within the reporting period. Kellen makes some prescient observations:
1) Palin "blew off" Investigator Daniel in July. By sometime in August, he should have "served a copy of an accusation" upon Palin. If he had, the Personnel Board would no longer be able to hide behind the "confidentiality" claim, as all further proceedings would be public.
2) If Palin and the Board, as Debra English may have hinted they were trying to do during the last Personnel Board Meeting, had reached a "settlement," that too would become public information and would have required an announcement.
According to the ADN [Anchorage Daily News], Kristan Cole (fund trustee) did not respond to their questions. Back in July, she said the fund would be "frozen" until the legal issues were "resolved."
"There is NOTHING in the official purpose of the AFT related to legal defense or legal proceedings or ethics complaints. In fact, the purpose of the trust is for any expense at all incurred by Sarah Palin "as a result of the fact that she is Governor . . . or as a result of the performance of her duties as Governor." Those are the only limitations instilled by the purpose clause.
So the purpose of the AFT is to collect money for…basically anything and everything, short of overt criminal activity. This includes legal expenses, of course, along with everything else under the sun. It also covers her family and staff, as well as ‘any other person determined by the Trustee.’"
Linda continues, observing that the avoidance of listing the Trust, obviously valued at far more than $1,000.00 (it is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars), is a serious concern.
The initial premise of the trust was linked to Palin’s being governor and expenses that might accrue because of that job. Its life was supposed to end when she ended that job:
The AFT’s purpose, as ambiguous as it may be, is clear about one thing – the purpose was set up for Palin "as Governor." As soon as she resigns, the trust loses its purpose.
Linda Kellen regards this purposeful reporting omission as a severe test of the integrity of both the Alaska Personnel Board and the Alaska Public Offices Commission. I’ll go further and observe that none of our press seems remotely interested in the depth of corruption and collusion Palin’s submission of such an incomplete document on such an important issue indicates.
It gets better, though, in Kellen’s second essay – regarding an issue she owns, the Arctic Cat snowmachine sponsorship of Todd Palin, and how that figures into Palin’s final disclosure and into all of her previous ones. And this subject gets into why I think Linda is as courageous as she is persistent.
Linda brought this issue up weeks after last winter’s Iron Dog snowmachine race. Soon afterward, during a fundraiser to raise the money the state had told her she needed to pursue a document request, Kellen was the first of the Alaska bloggers to get threatened with a SLAPP.
Essentially, the Palins may have lied for years about the material benefits of their relationship with Arctic Cat, the manufacturer of the snowmachine Todd Palin has used in all of his Iron Dog Race runs. Kellen observes that this final filing by Palin raises an entirely new set of questions regarding veracity:
The whole "Arctic Cat" issue began with:
This all led to a simple question asked by Andree McLeod during public testimony at an APOC meeting:
You (Sarah Palin) have reported a "discount on snow machines" by Arctic Cat for Todd Palin. Was this discount exercised during calendar year 2008 and what was the amount of it?
Ms. McLeod was referring to Palin’s Financial Disclosure for calendar year 2008. The only thing disclosed as coming from the Arctic Cat sponsorship was a "50% discount" on a snowmachine and no actual monetary figure was included. This violates APOC’s requirement that anything over $1,000.00 needs to include the value if it was higher than $1,000.00.
As a result, APOC sent that question in the form of a "letter of inquiry" to Sarah Palin and received a response back claiming the amount of the snowmachine discount was "50% of the factory cost" and was therefore a "trade secret."
APOC rejected that claim and gave Palin a deadline to report the information.
Palin/Van Flein responded, now claiming ignorance as to the details of the contract, even though some of the details were revealed in the previous letter and even more of the contract details were shared in this one. For example:
-The racers receive their Arctic wear for free while for others (through them) it was 50% discount and,
-Todd Palin receives a "sponsorship fee."
The APOC Staff made a recommendation, somehow coming to the conclusion that Palin had "revealed enough."
The Commission rather soundly rejected the staff recommendation during their September meeting and instead tasked them with finding out even more information from the Palins, including the amount of the "sponsorship fee" described in the last letter from Van Flein/Palin to the APOC.
This is where the investigation of last year’s Financial Disclosure form stands at this moment.
This brings us back to Monday’s "Final" Financial Disclosure.
Regarding the Iron Dog and sponsorship benefits for the Palins–according to the paperwork, the only mention of ANYTHING Iron Dog (other than listing Todd’s "winnings" as $3,500.00) is identifying Arctic Cat as a sponsor. The only monetary value: "Arctic Cat discount on snowmachines is $3,252.00". So, the Palin’s are claiming that the extent of Arctic Cat sponsorship value to Todd Palin is $3,252.
That’s an interesting figure for a few reasons:
1) On Palin’s Financial Disclosure for calendar year 2007, she lists the total value of the Arctic Cat sponsorship as $7,500.00. That was the year that Davis/Palin won the Iron Dog and the rewards for that win should have been reaped during the 2008 race…the year that Palin failed to attach ANY monetary value to the Arctic Cat sponsorship. 2008 was also the year that Sarah was the Republican VP candidate. The Palins are asking us to believe that the value of the Arctic Cat sponsorship has GONE DOWN by over $4,000.00 AFTER their latest win and the former-Gov’s new national stature?
2) They have still dodged listing that pesky "sponsorship fee" that already has them under investigation for last year’s POFD. During the September APOC meeting, the other Commissioners were enlightened by Commissioner Frederick, a lawyer from Wasilla who also happens to be a musher savvy about sponsorships
Linda Kellen’s pursuit of the issues involving the Arctic Cat sponsorship stands out among the efforts of the rest of our citizen activists here regarding Palin’s breaches of trust in her official duties. I have to honestly say that compared to Linda, I’ve been a dilettante.
Nobody knows where this might go next. There are many overflowing cans of stinky, moldering worms that the Crazy Woman left on our doorsteps. But Linda’s approach, and her diligent attendance at personnel board and public office commission hearings and meetings serve as the best example in the North Country of what the earnest purpose of citizen blogging represents.