Half-Baked in Alaska II: More Ethics Charges Unveiled Against Palin

New allegations have surfaced in Alaska charging Governor Sarah Palin with additional violations of the Alaska Executive Ethics Act.

At the same time, even more of her past political improprieties have come to light, along with details of criminal charges filed against Palin when she was a member of the Wasilla city council.

Zane Henning -- a conservative government watchdog from the governor's hometown of Wasilla who had previously sought Palin's email records as governor to determine whether or not she was conducting partisan business on her state email account -- contends that Palin improperly advanced her personal political career by using state offices to hold national television interviews that had nothing to do with her role as governor or with state business.

"The governor is using her official position and office in an attempt to repair her damaged political image on the national scene," Henning declared. The Alaska ethics code bars elected officials from using state resources to help or hurt a political candidate.

Palin's office did not contest the fact that the interviews were held in state offices but said that Palin was "not a candidate at the time of the interviews."

Yet in her lengthy, sit-down interview last week with Greta van Susteren on Fox News -- clearly conducted in the governor's office -- Palin primarily discussed both her failed bid on the Republican ticket and acknowledged that she had not ruled out a run for the presidency in 2012.

"I'm like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I'm like, don't let me miss the open door," the governor declared. "Show me where the open door is... And if there is an open door in '12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I'll plow through that door."

That hardly sounds like Alaska state business.

Moreover, this is not the first time that Palin has been charged with conducting partisan politics on the state's nickel. While pursuing her unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor in 2002, Wasilla city records reveal that she improperly used her mayor's office to conduct her campaign.

According to a July 2006 article in the Anchorage Daily News, "Palin used city employees, telephones, computers, and fax machines for her campaign fundraising and literature. On her candidate registration form, she used her City Hall fax number and her mayoral email address. Records show that Wasilla city property was used to contact supporters, donors, media contacts and media purchasing. Palin even held campaign meetings in city hall."

In fact, Palin has consistently come up against charges of ethics violations throughout her political career. An editorial in the Wasilla Frontiersman once opined that Palin had "little understanding or little regard for the city's own laws."

Or apparently the State of Alaska's, either.

In 1993, while she was a member of the Wasilla city council, Palin was busted for using a drift gillnet to harvest salmon in Bristol Bay without an annual permit. She was also charged with fishing without a photo ID. According to Alaska Criminal History Records, she plead guilty to the criminal negligence charges (it was originally recorded as a felony), while the charges for fishing without the proper ID were dropped.

This sense that she was above the law followed her to the state house in Juneau. According to the Associated Press, Palin accepted "dozens of gifts worth tens of thousands of dollars since taking office [as governor], including two free trips last year that she failed to report on disclosure forms, despite criticizing state legislators for the gifts they take."

Keeping track of Palin's ethics violations has become almost a full-time business.

Anne Kilkenny, the longtime Wasilla political activist whose legendary email about Palin last September referenced Palin's "unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness," says she's not surprised about the latest charges. "Sarah is incredibly strong-willed and nothing is going to stand in her way," Kilkenny noted in a phone interview from her home in Wasilla. "Sometimes strong-willed people don't see their own shortcomings."

In addition to lingering questions about the so-called Troopergate scandal, Palin also remains under another investigation for misusing her office to campaign against a voter referendum calling for tighter mining regulations; for finding a state job for a friend and campaign contributor; and for appointing the founder of an engineering firm that received $6.8 million in state business as head of the transportation department.

In October, a Republican investigator of the bipartisan Alaska Legislative Council declared that Palin violated the state's Executive Ethics Act by obsessively pursuing the firing of her former brother-in-law, Alaska state trooper Mike Wooten.

When the Legislature reconvenes in January it will decide whether to censure Palin for her activities in the so-called Troopergate affair. The Legislature also has the power to seek contempt charges against Palin and other state officials who willingly ignored the Legislative Council's subpoenas during its investigation. It could even go so far as to hold hearings on whether or not Palin and her husband committed perjury.

As far back as the 1990s, Alaska newspapers were calling Palin's behavior into question. "Mayor Palin," the Frontiersman declared in a February 1997 editorial, "fails to have a firm grasp of something very simple: the truth."