Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Celtic Diva Comes Up Emptyhanded: Linda Kellen Biegel's Ethics Complaint Over Governor Sarah Palin's "Arctic Cat" Jacket Dismissed
Another ethics complaint against Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has been dismissed by the Alaska Personnel Board on June 3rd, 2009. The complaint, filed by Linda Kellen Biegel, who blogs as the Celtic Diva on Diva's Blue Oasis, was over the wearing of Arctic Cat logo on clothing while at a public event considered by the complainant to have been an official state event and believed to have caused a conflict of interest. Her complaint was discussed in more detail in this previous post.
According to the Anchorage Daily News, Biegel claimed that Governor Palin had a conflict of interest because the clothing she wore to the Tesoro Iron Dog snowmobile race this year had an Arctic Cat logo and that Palin's husband, Todd, is sponsored by Arctic Cat in the Iron Dog, the world's longest snowmobile race. But the Alaska Personnel Board's independent investigator, Thomas Daniel, said there was no evidence Palin used her position for personal gain by wearing the jacket at the start and finish of the race.
A press release issued by the Governor's Office provides more details. In his report, Thomas Daniel wrote, “My investigation has uncovered no evidence that the governor or her husband received anything of value in exchange for the governor wearing the Team Arctic jacket when she acted as the official starter of the 2009 Iron Dog”. He also wrote, “I also note that most jackets worn by Alaskans have a company name or logo on them. It is common to see jackets with logos of North Face, Patagonia, Eddie Bauer, Marmot, Cabella’s, L.L. Bean and others. Indeed, it is more likely than not that any jacket that an Alaskan wears will have a company logo on it. So the fact that a person wears a jacket with a company logo on it is not evidence that the person is receiving a financial benefit as a result. To the contrary, it is the company that is receiving the benefit in the form of free advertising.”
According to the press release, Governor Palin welcomed news of the dismissal of the complaint. The press release points out that this is the 14th ethics complaint filed against the governor or her staff that has been resolved with no finding of a violation of the Executive Branch Ethics Act. Those complaints contain 22 separate allegations, all of which have been found to be without merit.
As expected, Conservatives4Palin and most of their followers are rejoicing at the news. However, Biegel has yet to post a response on either Diva's Blue Oasis or as a comment to the ADN story; I will post a link when she does respond. However, one of Diva's political allies, Mudflats, has posted her own response HERE.
Update: Celtic Diva has now posted her response HERE. Her contentions; first, that as the complainant, the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act does not require her to provide proof of financial benefit, and second, that by virtue of the fact that Sarah Palin is governor, the Davis/Palin team had an "undeserved" advantage conferred up them. The part of the Ethics Act she cites clearly includes the phrase "regardless of the financial gain".
This is valuable input because now we begin to see the flaws in the Ethics Act. First, a complainant should always be required to show proof of malfeasance, since in our system, it's innocence that's presumed and guilt that must be proven. Second, benefit must require actual financial gain to be logically considered a benefit. It must be an EXPLICIT benefit. So Celtic Diva has actually helped expose some problems with the Ethics Act that need legislative correction.
Most of the ethics complainants are holding Governor Palin to an unrealistically high ethics standard. Most normal people wouldn't think twice about wearing a jacket with a logo in public. Is Governor Palin supposed to get advance permission from the Department of Law every time she wants to so much as break wind? She's supposed to be a holder of her office, not a prisoner of the office.
An undesirable by-product of this obsession with ethics is that these ethics complaints are also likely to generate a public backlash against ethics in general.