Governor Palin's new legal defense fund was greeted enthusiastically by her supporters. We see it as an opportunity to help defray the expenses she and her family incurred as the result of unethical ethics complaints while she served as Governor of Alaska. It is our belief that Governor Palin should not have to personally bear the burden of legal bills that accumulated as the result of harrassment by her political enemies.
As we reported here, Attorney Randy Evans spoke out about a year ago, attesting to the legality of the Alaska Fund Trust, which he actually created for Governor Palin. Attorney Evans is an expert on ethics in government and politics, about which he frequently speaks and writes.
Attorney Evans posted another op-ed today on NeighborNewspapers.com, in which he discusses the considerations that went into setting the Alaska Fund Trust up. He also talks about the ethics complaint process and findings and calls the whole thing as it truly was: "just more harassment."
The harassment of Sarah Palin
By Randy Evans
It took one year, two independent counsels, and tens of thousands of Alaska taxpayer dollars to conclude that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin did nothing wrong in connection with a legal defense fund created to pay legal fees resulting from allegations related to her service as governor. Indeed, the story of the endless harassment of Sarah Palin is incredible.
As background, in August 2008, GOP Presidential nominee Senator John McCain shocked the political world when he selected then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate. Her selection triggered an avalanche of meritless “ethics complaints.” Unfortunately, the choices for dealing with such politically motivated distractions were limited.
Gov. Palin could have legally made a private appeal for cash from undisclosed donors to be sent to her home address. She did not. She could have asked for a special appropriation of Alaska tax dollars to pay for expenses incurred as a consequence of her service to Alaska. She did not. Instead, she opted for the most transparent, limited, and restrictive option available — the creation of a legal defense fund, following the precedent set by both Democratic and Republican national leaders before.
Yet, because she is who she is, everyone knew that any trust fund associated with her would be subject to unprecedented attack. For this reason, the language of the proposed trust fund was drafted to directly mirror the language and provisions used by the John Kerry Trust fund.
Indeed, former Democratic Presidential nominee Senator Kerry's trust was drafted by Perkins Coie, President Barack Obama's law firm.
On cue, within minutes of the announcement of Governor Palin's trust, a complaint was filed. And, the first "independent counsel" selected to investigate the trust was none other than the Alaska office of Perkins Coie.
Apparently before realizing that Governor Palin's trust was nearly identical to the trust Perkins Coie prepared for John Kerry, the Perkins Coie "independent counsel" found in a detailed nine page “CONFIDENTIAL” letter -- that was promptly leaked to the media — that Gov. Palin's trust was illegal.
Ridicule ensued. In addition, once the conflict of interest between representing President Obama and investigating Gov. Sarah Palin became public, the Perkins Coie "independent counsel" resigned. And so, a new second "independent counsel" (with no background or expertise in the area of legal expense funds) began the investigation anew.
In an unprecedented move of total transparency, Governor Sarah Palin waived her attorney-client privilege so that she and her lawyers could answer every question regarding the creation and formation of her legal expense fund trust. After months of flyspecking every document, e-mail, and statement, the second independent counsel issued a new nine page detailed report citing two new supposed violations of the Alaska Ethics Act that were, interestingly enough, not even mentioned in the Perkins Coie report.
First, the new report challenges the use of the word "official" to distinguish Gov. Palin's legal expense fund from all other funds, including fraudulent funds. In fairness, as word leaked out that a legal expense fund was being created for Gov. Palin, numerous unauthorized funds started to pop up on the internet, with at least one collecting thousands of dollars. The question was how to protect innocent donors from sending money to internet scammers. The answer was to identify the official trust as the "official" (not "Official") legal expense fund.
Importantly, there were no references to anything “Official” on the website or in the trust. So, the website did not include the Alaska flag, the Official portrait (picture), the Alaska seal, and so on and so on. Absolutely nothing “Official” was included. Within this context, the accusation regarding the use of the word "official" became just silly.
Second, the new report questioned whether trustee Kristan Cole, who serves on various boards in Alaska, could serve also as the trustee.
Importantly, the independent counsel's report noted specifically “that the investigation did not uncover any hint that the trustee was motivated by an actual attempt to influence Gov. Palin or that any undue influence or advantage was actually ever obtained or sought as a result of the services of Ms. Cole as trustee.”
So, if the original complaint never complained about Kristen Cole as the trustee, and the Perkins Coie specialists never raised the issue, and there was never any hint of impropriety, what is the problem? Well, basically, the new counsel thinks that “as a matter of policy and good government,” public officials “should” not be allowed to serve as trustees. Enough said.
The fact is that as this process continued, a clear picture emerged.
This whole thing was never about the trust at all. It was just more harassment. All Gov. Palin wanted to do was get it right and that is what the independent counsel found. At least, he got that part right.
Randy Evans is an Atlanta attorney with McKenna Long & Aldrige LLP. He is the former General Counsel of the Georgia Republican Party and remains active in the party on both the state and national level. He can be reached at www.mckennalong.com or McKenna Long & Aldrige LLP, Suite 5300, 303 Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30308.