I know there will be some who will gleefully jump on this story to say something on the order of "See? Sarah Palin broke the law!!!!!!!!1!!11!" I am not writing this to them. These are people who rejoice at every bad thing that happens to Sarah Palin, simply because she disagrees with them ideologically, and because she is very successful at getting her message out. And these people who simply rejoice at the problems of another are very, very small.
And, as it turns out, Sarah Palin's Facebook page has already responded to this (via her former spokesperson, Meghan Stapleton) with a little more information than what is currently in the article linked above. While the full response may be found here, following are salient points:
According to the Summary of Findings in the decision released today by the Alaska Personnel Board, nothing illegal and nothing unethical occurred because not a penny has been distributed. Governor Palin did nothing wrong. And in fact, everyone is in agreement that Governor Palin acted in good faith.
Oh, by the way, the summary may be found via Legal Insurrection. It doesn't seem to jibe with KTUU's article, which comes right out and says, "An investigator for the Alaska Personnel Board has determined that a legal defense fund set up for Sarah Palin is illegal." Perhaps you meant to say "would have been illegal had any money been distributed", KTUU?
Ms. Stapleton reminds readers of what I, and many others, have said before:
Last year, those who willfully and excitedly violated or abused Alaska law showed they would do it again and again to either bankrupt Governor Palin or paralyze her success for Alaska. Governor Palin had a choice: plead guilty to things she didn’t do so that she could focus on the state and save money for the family – or defend her good name and reputation. She chose to fight back. In the end, Governor Palin and her attorney, Thomas Van Flein, successfully defended against well over two dozen complaints, lawsuits, and allegations. Time and time again during and after the 2008 Presidential election cycle, independent investigators proved that Governor Palin’s actions were sound, her judgment was proper, and her intentions were honest. In fact, the Personnel Board, the ethics board for the Governor of the state, never even had to take up a case as each was dismissed before making it to the next level.
So they created a legal defense fund, so that the Palins would not be bankrupted. (This was before Sarah Palin resigned as governor to save the state of Alaska a lot of time and money that would have been wasted on all these frivolous complaints.) The legality of this fund has been discussed for quite some time, including by me here. But, of course, an ethics complaint was filed against the legal defense fund the instant it was created, and thus the fund has sat frozen and unused since then, until now.
The main issue appears to be that the word "official" was used on the fund's webpage. And Ms. Stapleton speaks to that point:
There was a point where it appeared that people around the country wanted to start legal defense funds for Governor Palin. The support and good will the people of this country have shown to the Palins is inspiring. But a concern was raised whether all these other potential funds would comply with various laws, including donation limits, limits against contributions from lobbyists or contributions from foreign nationals. So we used the word “official” in the website to distinguish the Alaska Fund Trust from ones we were not sure would be compliant. In our view, that was a solid and common sense reason to use the word “official,” but the investigator believes that it made it appear that the website was sponsored by the State of Alaska, and thus would be a use of Governor Palin’s ”official” office to raise money. We are not terribly persuaded that really would be the case or that any member of the public could be confused, but we respect the investigator’s evaluation of this point and it is not worth fighting about. Again, Governor Palin’s prime directive was simple – if this fund could be set up lawfully, she would support it. If not, it would not have her support.
And so, to simplify things, the Alaska Defense Fund's donations will be returned, and a new, "real" (as opposed to "official") legal defense fund for Sarah Palin has been set up here.
And, once again, Sarah Palin, unlike the ankle-biters filing charges against her in Alaska, has acted completely ethically and above board.