Tag Archives: Maria Comella

Thanks But No Thanks: GOP Candidates Ignore Palin Offers

Sarah Palin notably absent from gubernatorial races

Sarah Palin stands ready to stump for Republican gubernatorial candidates, but neither seems to want her help.

Sarah Palin stands ready to stump for Republican gubernatorial candidates, but neither Chris Christie nor Bob McDonnell seems to want her help.

Sarah Palin stands ready to stump for the Republican gubernatorial candidates running in the two most closely-watched campaigns in the country this fall, but neither seems to want her help.

Less than a month before voters go to the polls, it appears increasingly clear that the former Alaska governor, vice-presidential nominee and conservative favorite will not appear on behalf of either New Jersey’s Chris Christie or Virginia’s Bob McDonnell.

Palin is the only one of the most talked-about potential 2012 presidential candidates who has not yet campaigned for either Republican candidate.

Given her loyal following among many in the party’s grassroots, it’s Palin who could surely draw the largest crowd and perhaps raise the most money for the two candidates—her book, “Going Rogue,” is already the number-one bestseller on Amazon, over a month before it’s even released.

“The governor offered her assistance with both races,” said Palin adviser Meg Stapleton. “The ball is in their court.”

Neither GOP campaign wanted to discuss why they didn’t want Palin in the state—to say so would offend the conservative base that both Christie and McDonnell are counting on, not just to vote for them but to also volunteer time in the crucial final weeks of the election.

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Gov. Sarah Palin’s Hand Seen in Battle Over Mine in Alaska; Everyone Ticked Off at Sarah (Video)

In an exclusive in-depth article by Michael Powell and Jo Becker for the New York Times, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s involvement and influence in the Bristol Bay / Pebble Mine controversy has left many Alaskans shaking their heads in dismay.

EKWOK, Alaska – Two years ago, Sarah Palin landed near this tiny native village and spoke of her love for the vast and starkly beautiful delta that drains into Bristol Bay.

“I am a commercial fisherman; my daughter’s name is Bristol,” said Ms. Palin, then a candidate for governor. “I could not support a project that risks one resource that we know is a given, and that is the world’s richest spawning grounds, over another resource.”

Many here took her words to heart. But as governor, Ms. Palin has helped ease the way for a proposed copper and gold mine of near-mythic proportions at the headwaters of Bristol Bay, the world’s greatest spawning ground for wild salmon.

If state regulators give their approval, mining companies plan to carve an open pit that would rival the world’s largest mines, descending half a mile and taking as much energy to operate daily as the city of Anchorage. That prospect has ignited a war between Alaska’s two historic industries, mining and fishing.

Scientists and former state and federal biologists warn that toxic residue from the project, known as Pebble Mine, would irreparably harm a centuries-old salmon fishing industry that employs 17,000 and hauls in $100 million annually.

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Alaska Gov. Palin Tax Returns for 2006 and 2007 Released

Sarah Palin is the breadwinner and husband Todd is, well – he takes a lot of deductions for his fishing and snowmachine racing careers, according to 2007 and 2006 federal tax returns released Friday.

Sarah Palin makes $125,000 a year as Alaska governor. Plus, since she took the job in December 2006, she hasn’t paid taxes on the more than $17,000 she received in controversial per diem payments for working out of the family’s lakeside home in Wasilla – some 575 miles from the capital of Juneau.

For the 2007 tax year, Todd Palin’s self-employment brought him $66,893 in gross receipts – $49,893 from fishing and $17,000 from snowmachine racing. But, the returns show, he claimed so many deductions that he reported only $15,513 net profit from the fishing operation and claimed a $9,639 loss from his racing, leaving him with an overall net income of only $5,874. In addition, Todd earned $43,519 last year working part-time on the North Slope for BP Exploration.

The self-employment deductions left the Palins, who have four dependent children, with a 15 percent tax rate for 2007 and a rate of less than 10 percent for 2006. Todd Palin also deducted for the business use of their home in Wasilla. A fifth child was born to the couple this year.

An Associated Press analysis of the returns released by the McCain campaign also reveals that the Palins underpaid their estimated taxes with an April extension and likely owe interest.

Todd Palin offset his $17,000 gross receipts for snowmachine racing by claiming $10,858 in depreciation, $2,425 for car and truck expenses and $1,559 for supplies. An additional $11,405 was claimed for “other,” which included fuel, entry fees, equipment parts, repairs and maintenance, cell phone, memberships, “sponsorship apprec” and “gear.”

The governor’s husband claimed $34,380 in deductions for his fishing business – more than two-thirds of the gross receipts. He claimed $12,245 in crew share payments, another $2,953 for car and truck expenses, $5,866 for depreciation, $4,181 for supplies.

When he was on snowmachine duty, he claimed $192 for travel and no deductions for meals and entertainment. While fishing, he claimed $2,194 for travel and another $680 for meals and entertainment, which is deductible at 50 percent of cost.

On the 2006 return, Todd Palin had total receipts from the fishing and snowmachine racing of $48,082, but after deductions his net income was $10,164.

Sarah Palin was only governor for one month in 2006, and Todd Palin earned $102,716 working for BP Exploration, a post he says he’s temporarily left.

“This is a lady who screams about everyone in federal government taking advantage, and she’s taking every advantage she can,” said Sheldon Cohen, IRS commissioner in the Johnson administration. “They are milking every possible deduction. They have a right to, if it’s legitimate. The question is, is he in the racing business or is it a hobby?”

Robert Cross, first vice president of the National Society of Accountants, said the Palin business deductions were “typical middle America, John and Jane Plain,” but he felt they would definitely owe interest and “possibly a small penalty, depending on all the circumstances.”

An underpayment noticed by the AP could lead to interest charges against the Palins but probably not penalties.

On an undated extension form filed with a $2,000 check dated April 11, the Palins claimed an estimated tax liability of $22,721 and total withholding payments of $20,721. The attached check meant the couple believed they had paid all of their taxes for 2007, as required. However, when they filed their taxes last month, dated Sept. 3, their tax liability turned out to be $24,738 – meaning they owed an additional $2,017.

IRS rules require that when a taxpayer files for an extension in April, all outstanding taxes must be paid at that time.

When asked if the Palins had paid any interest or penalties, and if so, how much, Maria Comella, a McCain-Palin spokeswoman, said the couple had paid “at least $2,017,” and that the campaign was researching if an additional payment had been made.

“In April, they made a reasonable estimate of what they would owe, and they underpaid,” she acknowledged.

“They’re going to be billed the interest,” said Cohen, who has contributed to the Obama-Biden campaign. He said the Palins would likely avoid penalties because their tax payments as of April for last year were higher than all payments made the prior year.

Overall, the 2007 return shows that last year the couple had an adjusted gross income of $166,080 and paid $24,738 in taxes – about a 15 percent rate after deductions. In 2006, the records show, the Palins earned $127,869 as adjusted gross income, with taxes paid listed at $11,944 – less than a 10 percent rate.

On federal financial disclosure forms, also released Friday, Palin and her husband listed assets worth from $960,000 to $2.3 million. Because the values of assets are reported in broad ranges, it’s not possible to calculate an exact value for their holdings.

Like many Americans, their most valuable asset is their home. Theirs, in Wasilla, is valued at $500,000 to $1 million. According to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the land and structure are appraised at $552,100.

Their next most valuable asset is a fishing leasehold, worth $100,000 to $250,000. Todd Palin’s fishing business was valued at $50,000 to $100,000, and his snowmobile racing enterprise was put at $15,000 to $50,000.

Todd Palin also has a retirement account worth $50,000 to $100,000, and he owns a variety of mutual funds in a 401(k) retirement plan through his employer, the oil company BP. Sara Palin also has retirement accounts from the state of Alaska and the city of Wasilla, where she was once mayor, valued at $115,000 to $250,000.

The Palins also own shares of two land parcels worth a combined $51,000 to $115,000.

On their tax returns, the Palins said they donated $8,105 to charity over the two years. The bulk of the donations came in “gifts by cash or check” – $4,250 in 2006 and $2,500 last year. Comella said the Palins gave the money to local churches, but she would not elaborate.

The Palins made noncash charitable contributions, claiming “thrift store value” of $825 for a Dec. 31, 2007, donation to the Salvation Army of Wasilla.

The column used to describe the donated items states only “Wasilla Alaska.” When asked to explain, Comella said, “I believe this is actual things that were part of their property – furniture, clothing and so forth. That was generally what they donated.”

For the 2006 tax year, the couple listed two noncash donations of “crib,” household goods and clothing to the Salvation Army of Wasilla, with a fair market value of $1,000, and more goods and clothing, with a fair market value of $230. While the value of the two donations total $1,230, the tax return only claims $630.

Asked to explain the missing $600 on the actual return, Comella said that figures in two columns had been reversed – that the $1,000 was actually the donor’s cost and the $400 listed under that category was actually the fair market value. That would make the total donation the same $630 listed elsewhere on the Palin return.

“It was a typographical error that didn’t change any of the main numbers,” said Comella.

More recently, the IRS has tightened documentation rules for all charitable contributions.

Regarding the per diem dispute, Comella said Juneau is the governor’s home base and therefore whenever she works elsewhere, she is entitled to charge the state. Comella contended the per diem payments are not taxable.

Cohen said it was fine for the state of Alaska to determine it was OK to reimburse Palin to work out of her home, but the state’s decision didn’t mean those benefits were not taxable by the federal government. “One has nothing to do with the other,” said Cohen.

By Richard T. Pienciak, Associated Press, October 3, 2008

New Evidence: Palin Had Direct Role In Charging Rape Victims For Exams

Rape kits are used to investigate sexual assault crimes

Rape kits are used to investigate sexual assault crimes

Although the subject of Wasilla Alaska rape victims having to pay for their own medical exams was previous explored here on the Sarah Palin Truth Squad, this additional report further clarifies Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s character and actual knowledge of the practice during her administration as Wasilla’s mayor.   Detailing yet another one of Gov. Palin’s untruths, as reported on the Huffington Post by Jacob Alperin-Sheriff on September 11, 2008, this in-depth evidence speaks directly to the issue of this candidate’s honesty as a government official entrusted with the welfare of the citizens and her sense compassion as a human being.

The Palin rape kit billing controversy has made its way from OfftheBus all the way to CNN. In her story on the controversy, Jessica Yellin claimed to have found no evidence in city records that Sarah Palin was aware that sexual assault victims were being billed for forensic testing. However, recently released budget documents show that Sarah Palin directly shifted the cost of the rape kits from the police department to the victim in her budget for fiscal year 2000. Given that the CNN article quotes a former city council member as saying “Palin would review each department’s budget line by line,” even if an underling wrote up the actual budget, she knew about the funding shift, and still signed off on the budget.Under Sarah Palin’s administration, Wasilla cut funds that had previously paid for the medical exams and began charging victims or their health insurers the $500 to $1200 fees. Although Palin spokeswoman Maria Comella wrote USA Today that the GOP vice presidential nominee “does not believe, nor has she ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence-gathering test…To suggest otherwise is a deliberate misrepresentation of her commitment to supporting victims and bringing violent criminals to justice.” However, the evidence from Wasilla’s budget records says otherwise.

The mayor of Wasilla before Sarah Palin, John C. Stein, was also a Republican, though the office was and continues to be non-partisan. Mayor Stein was defeated by Sarah Palin in a campaign that brought in the NRA, Republican partisans, and various dirty tricks, including a possible whisper campaign that Mayor Stein was Jewish (he is a Christian, but is “proud of such a reputation”). He now runs the Sitka Sound Science Center, a marine research facility in Sitka, Alaska.

Mayor Stein told OffTheBus that he didn’t “think victims were billed while [he] was mayor,” but that he wasn’t certain. He did mention that “Wasilla participated in establishing a Sexual Assault Response Team to set-up a one-stop forensic exam room for victims,” evidence of a pro-victim police department. In order to confirm his assertion about the billing policy, he recommended I contact current police chief Angella Long for confirmation. She did not return my request for comment.

However, I was able to eventually track down Irl Stambaugh, police chief of Wasilla from the founding of the department until Sarah Palin fired him for “not fully supporting her efforts to govern.” Stambaugh sued for breach of contract, but lost when a federal judge ruled that “police chiefs serve at the behest of the mayor unless otherwise specified.” He later served as the executive director of the Alaska Police Standards Council.

It turns out that Wasilla did not bill sexual assault victims for the cost of rape exams while Irl Stambaugh was chief of police. As chief, he had included a line item in the budget to pay for the cost of such exams. He had only just heard about the Mayor Palin/Chief Fannon policy today, and was just as shocked to hear about it as I was.

In an earlier piece, I had mistakenly said that the exams were covered under a general “contingency” funding. In fact, the department’s first full-year budget, for fiscal year 1994 (July 1, 1993-June 30, 1994), included a line item specifically to pay for medical examinations. This line item was denoted “contractual services”, and was described on page G-26 of that budget (available in this PDF on page 42) as covering “costs for medical blood tests for intoxicated drivers & medical exam/evidence collection for sexual assaults.” As a member of the city council at the time, Palin was required to read and approve this budget. The contractual services line item was more succinctly described in the 1995 and 1996 budgets as “costs for medical blood tests or exams as required for evidence.”

Starting with the last budget under Mayor John Stein, the FY97 budget (July 1, 1996-June 30, 1997), the line item explanations became less detailed, with the explanation for the “contractual services” line item for several departments combined into one. The explanation reads “Contractual Services/General-medical testing, road maintenance, equipment rental, airport snow removal.” A table below lists the allocations and spending for the “contractual services” line item from FY94-FY99 (the budgets for the italicized years were submitted by John Stein; the others by Sarah Palin)

Fiscal Year

Police Department Contractual Services Line Item

Allocated

Spent

FY94

$3,000

$1,359.62

FY95

$2,500

$2,5788.88

FY96

$2,500

$1365.50

FY97

$3,995

$3,605.74

FY98

$4,000

$2,658.64

FY99

$4,200

$4,159.25

For FY 2000, however (July 1st, 1999-June 30th, 2000), only $1,000 was allocated for the “contractual services” police department line item. Note that page A-1 of the budget (available here) states that “the Wasilla city council hereby adopts the operating budget for the Fiscal Year 2000, as presented by the Mayor and introduced on April 26, 1999.” At the bottom of this page is Sarah Palin’s signature.

The actual line-item showing the cut in funds allocated for contractual services can be found on page F-28. The line item index confirming that this line-item still referred to “medical testing, road maintenance, equipment rental, airport snow removal” can be found on page H-5 of the line-item index for fiscal year 2000 (available here).

Of the insufficient $1,000 allocated, only $152 had been used by December 31st, 1999, according to data from the FY2001 budget. That budget was “submitted by Mayor Sarah Palin” on April 24, 2000. At this time, the bill banning the “victim pays” policy was under consideration in the state House, and as a result, this budget included the FY99-level $4,000 allocation for “contractual services,” and starting in June of 2000, the city began paying for the exams again. The interesting thing about the $152 spent during that 6-month time period (there were probably 5 sexual assaults reported during that period) is that it was not even enough to cover a single rape kit, using the $300-$1,200 range given by the original Frontiersman article. Perhaps Fannon was still using the fund for intermittent DWI blood testing, which had skyrocketed as a result of his decision to shift back bar closing times to 5 a.m. from the 2 a.m. closing time set by former Police Chief Irl Stambaugh.

The budget document for the 1999-2000 fiscal year includes a budget message by Mayor Sarah Palin. According to item A.6 of Section 2.16.020 of the Wasilla Municipal Code, the mayor must “repare and submit an annual budget and capital improvement program for consideration by the council, and execute the budget and capital program as adopted.” This message ends as follows:

Though change is sometimes initially unsettling (and in the Woodrow Wilson: “if you want to make enemies, try to change something.”) It is Administration’s desire that this budget format be viewed objectively. I look forward to council discussions and continued input from our residents on the budget as we mindfully prioritize the public’s dollars to plan, construct and improve our vital infrastructure.

At the end of the letter, under the words “Sincerely,” is the signature of Sarah Palin. The McCain/Palin campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

The Obama/Biden campaign theme is “change we can believe in.” Given Governor Palin’s own words and actions in this budget, perhaps the McCain/Palin campaign’s theme ought to be “change that is unsettling.”

 

New Evidence: Palin Had Direct Role In Charging Rape Victims For Exams

 

 

Sarah Palin said Yes, Thanks, to a Road To Nowhere in Alaska / Maps to Bridge & Road Projects, Including Alaska Dept. of Transportation Alternatives

In an April, 2008 file photo, dumptrucks carrying rock head towards the end of the Gravina Island road currently under construction near Ketchikan, Alaska.

In an April, 2008 file photo, dumptrucks carrying rock head towards the end of the Gravina Island road currently under construction near Ketchikan, Alaska.

In the latest chapter in the saga of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin seeking or accepting federal earmarks, we now learn that part of the funds she claims to have told Washington, D.C. “Thanks, But No Thanks” were actually used to construct a 3.2 mile road leading to nowhere, at a cost of $26 million to American taxpayers.  In an article by Erika Hayasaki, reporting for the Los Angeles Times on September 19, 2008, questions still linger as to why Gov. Palin didn’t return the money to Washington after it became apparent the Gravina Bridge project the road was to connect to was dropped due to changing political tides. 

The 3.2-mile-long partially paved “road to nowhere” meanders from a small international airport on Gravina Island, home to 50 people, ending in a cul-de-sac close to a beach.

Crews are working to finish it. But no one knows when anyone will need to drive it.

That’s because the $26-million road was designed to connect to the $398-million Gravina Island Bridge, more infamously known as the “bridge to nowhere.” Alaskan officials thought federal money would pay for the bridge, but Gov. Sarah Palin killed the project after it was ridiculed and Congress rescinded the money. Plans for the road moved forward anyway.

Some residents of Ketchikan — a city of 8,000 on a neighboring island where the bridge was to end — see the road as a symbol of wasteful spending that Palin could have curtailed. Some of them even accuse her of deception.

“Surely we won’t have to commute on the highway if there won’t be a bridge,” said Jill Jacob, who has been writing and calling the governor’s office for the last two years to protest the road. “It’s a dead-end highway, a dead-end road.”

Since Palin was named the Republican vice presidential nominee two weeks ago, she has been boasting that she told Congress that Alaska didn’t want the hundreds of millions that had been earmarked for the bridge.

But in 2006, Palin stood before residents in this region during her gubernatorial campaign and expressed support for the bridge. It became apparent after she was elected that the state’s portion would be too costly, and Palin ordered transportation officials to abandon the project.

She held on to the $223 million in federally earmarked funds for other uses, such as the Gravina road, approved by her predecessor.

“Here’s my question,” said Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein. “If Sarah Palin is not being truthful on an issue like the Gravina bridge project, what else is she not being truthful about?”

Alaska transportation officials say construction of the road began in June 2007 because the state was still hoping to build a bridge, and “you need that highway access,” said Roger Wetherell, a department spokesman.

But Weinstein, who backed the bridge project, said that Palin should have redirected the money. “If the bridge was canceled, give the money back, or get the earmark removed, or redesign the road so it’s better for development,” he said. “Especially if you’re opposed to earmarks, and now you’re telling the world you’re opposed to earmarks.”

His frustration came to a head after he heard Republican presidential nominee John McCain and Palin tout her reputation as a reformer focused on saving taxpayer money. He didn’t feel much better when a campaign ad called them “the original mavericks,” and said: “She stopped the ‘bridge to nowhere.’ ”

Weinstein need only glance across the salmon-rich waters separating his city from Gravina Island to see what he believes are millions of dollars being spent unnecessarily. Why, he asks, didn’t she stop that?

The bridge was championed by Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young, both Republicans, who pushed the project through Congress in 2005 using earmarks — the controversial practice used by lawmakers to slip targeted spending into bills without public scrutiny. But that earmark quickly became the target of widespread public criticism and was labeled the “bridge to nowhere.” Members of Congress eventually stripped the funds that had been designated for the bridge from a larger spending bill, but allowed Alaska to keep $223 million for other needs.

In September 2007, Palin canceled the bridge project, blaming a funding shortage and lack of congressional support: “Ketchikan desires a better way to reach the airport, but a $398-million bridge is not the answer,” she said in a statement.

Susan Walsh, a nurse who lives on Gravina Island, remembers attending that Chamber of Commerce meeting. When Palin withdrew her support for the bridge, Walsh figured the road project would have died with it. “It was just stupid,” she said.

Jacob, the woman who has been protesting the road for two years with a letter-writing campaign on behalf of the Tongass Conservation Society in Ketchikan, says: “We begged her to stop.”

An April 2007 letter to Palin read: “I am writing to encourage you to do away with the Gravina Access Highway. At about $8 million per mile of public money, this is a fiscal mistake.”

State officials said alternatives to the $398-million bridge could include improved ferry service or less costly bridges that would link to the Gravina road. “Gov. Palin understood that a more cost-efficient, sensible solution could still be implemented” in place of the original bridge plan, said Maria Comella, a spokeswoman for Palin’s campaign.

On a clear day recently, Mayor Weinstein flew over Gravina Island, looking down on the nearly completed road. “When Sarah Palin goes on national television and says: ‘I told Congress, “Thanks but no thanks,” ‘ it’s not true,” he said. “The implication is we didn’t take the money. But we did.”

The mayor said he was considering posting a sign on the road for the rest of the world to see. He said it would read: “Built Under Gov. Sarah Palin, Paid for With Federal Earmarks.”

Sarah Palin said Yes, Thanks, to a Road To Nowhere in Alaska

On ProPublica.org there are excellent interactive maps detailing the Gravina Island Bridge (“Bridge to Nowhere”) and the newly built Gravina Island Highway (“Road to Nowhere”).  Although various governmental watchdogs urged Governor Sarah Palin to cancel the wasteful road project, she went ahead with the construction, even though Alaska’s Department of Transportation is currently analyzing nine other alternatives, including six bridges and three ferries.

Maps to the Proposed “Bridge to Nowhere” and the newly constructed “Road to Nowhere”

Alaska Department of Transportation Alternatives to the “Bridge to Nowhere”  (PDF file)