NBC News is finally reporting on Gov. Sarah Palin’s claims to have listed the Alaska governor’s plane on eBay, giving voters the impression she SOLD it on eBay, which has been proven to be untrue. Not only was the plane sold at a tremendous loss to the Alaskan taxpayers, but then Gov. Palin turned around and used another plane for her extensive travel, as well as charging the State of Alaska for her family to accompany her on official state business trips.
Governor Sarah Palin used her state law-enforcement agency’s twin-engine plane to travel around Alaska, accounting for about 20 percent of its flying time, according to a document obtained by NBC News. The police plane is a King Air turboprop that is primarily used for police-related missions and search and rescue missions.
The governor’s flight usage is laid out in a chart prepared by the Alaska Department of Public Safety and obtained by NBC News under the state’s Freedom of Information law. (The governor’s flight usage is indicated as “Gov” on the chart, and marked in purple.)
On the campaign trail, Gov. Palin has touted her credentials as a reformer by discussing how she sold off the state’s other plane, a jet, and even listed it on eBay. Her predecessor, Gov. Frank Murkowski, had used that plane for travel.
But after Palin’s sale of the state jet following her inauguration as governor, the document shows, she did not stop flying on state planes. Gov. Palin used her Public Safety department’s prop plane for 110 hours, or 19 percent of its flight time, in 2007 and 2008. The Department of Corrections used it 28 percent of the time, and Alaska Wildlife troopers also used it 28 percent of the time. A spokesman for the McCain Palin campaign defended the flights, saying the governor needed to use the state Public Safety plane because of the remote geography of Alaska. “For the governor to perform her duty visiting rural communities the use of an aircraft was necessary,” a campaign spokesman said.
Tensions over Gov. Palin’s use of the plane first became public last month, with the release of an affidavit by her husband, Todd Palin. “It seemed like whenever Sarah needed this plane, it was unavailable,” Todd Palin wrote. The affidavit was submitted to investigators probing why Palin fired her Commissioner of Public Safety, Walt Monegan, earlier this year. That investigative report was released this month.
In his affidavit, Todd Palin complained that the state’s police agency was not allowing his wife to use the King Air plane. “We were concerned that the Department of Public Safety was retaliating against Sarah for selling the Murkowski jet that the Department of Public Safety officials enjoyed using,” he wrote.
Walt Monegan, in an interview with NBC earlier this month, said the plane was indeed a source of contention. “The governor would be upset if the plane was not at her disposal,” he said. “She would say, ‘I need the aircraft’ and it was at the shop.”
John Glass, the current Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, says the plane-usage chart was prepared in response to requests by Sarah Palin’s office, after the plane often was not available. “The pie chart was made to show the usage of the airplane.”
Glass said since the plane was old, it needed frequent maintenance. He said,”We provided the plane when it was available.” He says the plane is primarily intended for law enforcement missions. “The priority is for search and rescue or police related missions and when it is not being used for that it can be used for the governor.”
A spokesman for the McCain-Palin campaign said that the state Department of Public Safety had frequently denied Palin use of the plane. “The lack of availability of the plane went beyond reasonable expectations of being down for maintenance,” Palin spokesman Taylor Griffin said.
Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a non-profit budget watchdog group, says the chart is the first indication of how extensively Palin used the government’s plane–despite her frequent boasts about selling the state jet.
“I would say the trouble the governor runs into is the fact that they used the selling of the plane on eBay as part of the reform story. She was trying to get great public relations without giving up flying around on a government plane,” Ashdown said.