The Associated Press has been reporting today:
The Associated Press
Published: July 7th, 2009 05:23 PM
Last Modified: July 7th, 2009 05:23 PM
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Sarah Palin’s office has released a nearly $2 million cost breakdown detailing what the resigning Alaska governor says the state has paid tackling ethics complaints against her.
The spreadsheet compiled by the governor’s office totals more than $1.9 million reportedly spent by various state agencies to handle the complaints as well as public records requests.
Palin, who steps down July 26, has racked up more than $500,000 in personal legal debts on top of that.
According to the cost breakdown, expenditures by the state Department of Law added up to more than $850,000.
The governor’s office says its expenditures totaled more than $425,000 in nearly 6,000 hours of staff hours.
Palin’s staff released the numbers to back up her contention the onslaught of “frivolous” ethics complaints have cost the state millions of dollars and thousands staff hours. [Ref #1]
Ever since the story Sean Cockerham filed Monday night [Ref #2]— the one I quoted from in the “Addendum” portion of my two million dollar meme post [Ref #3]— I’ve felt that Palin’s story about the $2 million being attributable to staff work across several state agencies was just her shifting to a new explanation when Cockerham (and others) interviewed her. Because Cockerham of course had also been the ADN reporter who reported on July 1 about the Alaska Personnel Board figures for the ethics complaints against Palin, & knew that the real figure was not $2 million but $296,000. I reckoned he might have mentioned those figures to her during her interview, & so she simply shifted ground to a new explanation.
So after I read the AP story above, I found myself speculating that the Office of the Governor’s office had been working overtime to try to back up her shifting explanation ever since, & the spreadsheet would full of all kinds of weird padding to try to justify her claim.
Now I have a copy of it — which I’ve uploaded to my site so that you too can take a look at it too. I’ve retained the file name I received it under: records-costs-attachment-2.pdf. Tip o’ the nib to P for providing me with a copy.
On first glance I think my speculations were partly right, partly wrong.
The document is two pages; it looks like they may have come from two different sources. The first page has no title or date. Looks to me like it’s probably from the Governor’s office, & the 2nd page — which does have a title and date — is an itemization of just the Department of Law portion. Page 1 figures from other offices — the Office of the Governor itself, for example, as well as the Personnel Review Board (i.e., the Alaska Personnel Board)— are not for the most part itemized. Which means that limited conclusions can be drawn from them.
The second page is dated June 26, 2009, comes from the Office of the Attorney General, Department of Law, & bears the title “Governor’s Office Legal Support FY09: Itemized Costs by Matter.” Given that Sean Cockerham’s interview of Palin, referenced above, took place just a couple days ago, whereas this document is dated a couple of weeks ago, this indicates that I might be wrong that Palin was merely shifting ground in her explanation of where her $2 million figure came from.
It also seems that some of the costs in the spreadsheets are legitimately non-Personnel Board costs related to ethics complaints & public records requests. But it also seems that I was right about there being a lot of padding here.
For example, the figure given on page 1 for the Personnel Review Board is $560,800, whereas the figures released on July 1 by the Personnel Board itself states that its costs for the ethics complaints against Palin & her staff were no more than $296,043 — just a little over half of this new figure. Where did the extra amount come from?
One of the page 2 (Department of Law) line items was “Governor’s Staff Advice re Campaign” and gave a figure of $4586.45, representing 37.6 hours of DOL attorney Bockman’s time to, as a note explains, to give “Advice to Gov Ofc: VP Campaign.” Now, that makes sense: one could expect that Palin’s staff should of course be getting some legal advice about how to handle things once Palin became a VP candidate. That is an ethical matter (& was identified as such by DOL), but it doesn’t actually have anything to do with ethics complaints or public records requests — looks, in fact, more like general advice of the “don’t do this on state time because it has to do with the vice presidential campaign; but that other thing, yeah, you can do that because it’s legitimate state business” variety. I.e., helping the governor’s staff maintain proper boundaries between Palin’s new double-role as both governor & political candidate.
But that didn’t stop the Office of the Governor from transferring that exact same amount of $4586.45 to a line on page 1 under the subtitle “Ethic complaints.” Presto change-o! a non-complaint related matter suddenly become an complaint-related matter, simply by through the application of copy & paste! One didn’t even have to wiggle one’s nose!
It’s hard to tell much of anything about some of the other non-itemized costs. $315,000 for the Office of the Governor: how many people’s salaries does that represent? How is it that 818.2 hours of DOL attorney time (mentioned on page 1 but not page 2) was taken up in the Legislative ethics investigation? — at 40 hours a week, that over five months of full-time work. (Tip o’ the nib to D.S. for pointing this out.)
Public records requests were totaled out at $528,336. But nothing is said here about whatever fees might have been charged for those public records requests. To report all of that as costing the State, without reporting any income to the State from related fees, would be like griping about how much I had to pay out of my very own pocket to feed myself poor me poor me poor me without bothering to inform you that I also have income from a 40-hour-a-week job that makes me perfectly capable of supporting not only my addiction to not starving to death, but also to keep a roof over my head. The (non-itemized) item “Dept. of Aministration – IT,” totaling at $125,413, might fall in the same category: at least some of that amount is likely to relate to electronic records searches of state servers to answer public records requests, with related fees. (Other IT costs could, of course, be searches conducted in order to satisfy information needs of investigators in the various ethics complaints).
That’s all I have right now on a first look at this — and me no expert on budgets or the legal processes involved. Possibly I’ve made errors in my speculations & conclusions. In the meantime, we’ll probably see lots of reporting on this by other bloggers & the mainstream press. So be on the lookout for other people’s take on this, many of whom will be more knowledgeable than me.
I’ve just taken a look at one blog post which offers some helpful info from another tack:
But David Murrow, a spokesperson for the Governor, said in an interview that much of this money was budgeted to the lawyers in advance and would have gone to them anyway, even if state lawyers hadn’t been defending against these ethics complaints.
In response to our questions, the Governor’s office provided us with a detailed breakdown of the millions Palin has claimed has gone to defending against ethics complaints. It does list roughly $1.9 million in expenditures.
But Murrow, the spokesperson, acknowledged to our reporter, Amanda Erickson, that this total was arrived at by adding up attorney hours spent on fending off complaints — based on the fixed salaries of lawyers in the governor’s office and the Department of Law. The money would have gone to the lawyers no matter what they were doing. The complaints are “just distracting them from other duties,” Murrow said.
In other words, while these lawyers might have been free to do other legal work for the state, the ethics complaints have apparently not had the real world impact Palin has claimed, and didn’t drain money away from cops, teachers, roads and other things. [Ref #4]
Okay. Gotta run.
filed via iPod Touch from the bus stop where I’m waiting for my bus [7:29 PM AST]:
Who’s to say if all the public records requests listed on p. 1 have anything to do with ethics complaints against Palin? or even, indeed, with Palin at all? Might some of them relate to other functions and officces of Alaska government? Give us a breakdown, please. Also give us a comparison with public records requests made in the prior year of Palin’s administration before she was tapped by McCain, and with a typical year of the Murkowski & Knowles administrations. Be sure as well to include information on the fees charged for public records requests under all three administrations, and how much income the State of Alaska derived from these fees to offset the costs. By all accounts, fees charged by the Palin administration are vastly exhorbitant and seem calculated to discourage citizens from being able to hold government accountable to the people. Does Parnell intend to follow these usurious policies too?
Note: this addendum was originally added as a comment, since I couldn’t figure out how to get it into the actual blog w/ my iPod. But I rolled it into the post where I wanted it to be once I got home.
I will furthermore add that I highly recommend the track “Storming New Caprica” by Bear McCreary from the season 3 soundtrack of Battlestar Galactica as excellent music for meditating while walking upon the neverending battle to combat Palin’s Palincchioisms.
There’s several of them: follow the tag Palin ethics complaints.
- 7/7/09. “Palin’s office details complaint costs” by the Associated Press (Anchorage Daily News).
- 7/6/09. “Palin says ethics inquiries were paralyzing — INTERVIEW: Governor says she resigned because of frivolous complaints” by Sean Cockerham (Anchorage Daily News).
- 7/7/09. “The 2 million dollar meme” by Melissa S. Green (Henkimaa).
- 7/8/09. “Key Reason Palin Gave For Quitting May Be False” by Greg Sargent (The Plum Line).