ANCHORAGE — Gov. Sarah Palin reportedly now has more than $600,000 in legal bills as a result of ethics complaints, and a national campaign fueled by a conservative Web site reports bringing in more than $100,000 in the past week to her defense fund.
The accusations are described by Palin supporters as frivolous attacks, and the governor's office says 14 complaints have been dismissed so far with no finding she violated the state ethics act. But it is not clear how much of Palin's bills were the result of an ethics complaint she initiated herself and one she settled by agreeing to reimburse the state $10,000 of her children's state-funded travel expenses.
Palin herself triggered the state Personnel Board's investigation of her on the so-called "Troopergate" affair last fall when she sent an ethics disclosure into the board. Palin did so because, she contended, the Legislature's investigation of the issue was politicized and she was seeking the appropriate venue.
Other complaints have not been settled, and Kristan Cole, the trustee for the legal defense fund, said the bills continue to climb and "my sense is they are over $600,000." Palin in March had pegged the debt at that time as more than $500,000.
Palin's lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, would not give a case-by-case accounting of how Palin has incurred so much legal debt, saying "that type of breakdown is protected by the attorney-client privilege." Palin's personal spokeswoman, Meghan Stapleton, did not respond to inquiries about whether the governor would waive the privilege and release that information.
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