A new ethics complaint has been filed against Sarah Palin, accusing the Alaska governor of abusing her power by charging the state when her children traveled with her.
The complaint alleges that the Republican vice presidential nominee used her official position as governor for personal gain, violating a statute of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. It follows a report by The Associated Press last week that Palin charged the state more than $21,000 for her three daughters’ commercial flights, including events where they weren’t invited, and later ordered their expense forms amended to specify official state business.
In some cases, Palin also has charged the state for hotel rooms for the girls.
The complaint released Wednesday says Palin charged the travel costs for events her children were not invited to and where they served in no legitimate state purpose or business. Administration officials have said Alaska law allows governors to charge the state for their family’s travel if they conduct state business.
"Governor Palin intentionally secured unwarranted benefits for family members, improperly used state property to benefit her personal and financial interests, and illegally altered documents that were the subject of a Public Records request," the complaint states.
Earlier this month, a legislative report found Palin violated state ethics laws when she fired her public safety commissioner. The state’s Personnel Board also has hired an independent counsel for a similar investigation.
Any ethics complaints against a governor, lieutenant governor or attorney general go to the Alaska Personnel Board to determine whether state law was violated. The three-member panel is appointed by the governor.
Dave Jones, an assistant attorney general, said ethics complaints are confidential unless their targets waive confidentiality or allegations are found to have merit. Jones said he could not discuss any particular case, but added that in general possible penalties could include fines of up to $5,000. In a case where an official has been found to have benefited, the official could be ordered to pay up to twice the amount of the personal gain.
The latest complaint was filed by Frank Gwartney, an Anchorage Democrat who supports Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Gwartney, 60, said he is fed up with "all the corruption" among Alaska’s elected officials, including Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who was convicted this week on federal corruption charges.
"Sarah ran on this very self-righteous campaign on ethics and anti-corruption," Gwartney told the AP. "She is no different from the others."
Palin’s attorney, Thomas Van Flein, said he was not aware of the complaint and could not comment.
Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said she can’t comment specifically on the complaint because it is confidential. But she said generally the first family is expected to participate in community activities across Alaska and represents the state on travels.
"We receive hundreds of invitations for the governor each month, and a majority of them request the first family participate," Leighow said. "The Palin children can only participate in a fraction of the events."
Responding to the travel issue, Palin told Fox News last week that every Alaska governor has traveled with family when it’s a first family function. "And it’s always been charged to the state," she said. "That’s part of the job."
The state already is reviewing nearly $17,000 in per diem payments to Palin for 312 nights she slept at her home in Wasilla, about an hour’s drive from her satellite office in Anchorage.
The ethics travel grievance was first reported by CBS News.