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Hot Button

- The Washington Times - Monday, July 13, 2009

Complaints continue

The ethics complaints against soon-to-be-former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin continue to roll in, even after the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee announced that she would be stepping down from office at the end of the month.

In her resignation speech, she blasted frivolous ethics complaints being filed to the State Personnel Board, saying they cost her and the state valuable time and money. Her aides say the governor owes up to $500,000 in legal bills from the complaints and the state has spent nearly $2 million investigating the charges, many of them accusing the governor of abusing power.

But the complaints continue, the latest one being filed Friday, accusing her of accepting payment for television interviews. Her lawyer Thomas Van Flein said this accusation is "categorically false."

So far, Mrs. Palin is 15 for 15 in fending off such complaints as Alaska residents challenging her trips out of state to attend a campaign event for Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican, and to speak at a pro-life breakfast in Indiana, as well as for conducting television interviews in her state office.

One of the complaints was filed by Anchorage resident Linda Kellen Biegel, who took issue with Mrs. Palin for wearing to a public function a jacket made by a company that sponsored the governor's husband Todd, a snow machine racer. Ms. Biegel asked the personnel board to determine whether this meant Mrs. Palin was improperly using her position to serve her personal and financial interests. The board said it did not.

Another complaint was immediately dismissed because it was filed under a fictional name.

"The only saving grace in this recent episode is that it proves beyond any doubt the significance of the problem Alaska faces in the 'new normal' of political discourse. I hope this will be a wake-up call - to legislators, to commentators and to citizens generally - that we need a much more civil and respectful dialogue that focuses on the best interests of the state, rather than the petty resentments of a few," Mrs. Palin said.

Fashionably frugal?

First lady Michelle Obama took some criticism for clutching a $5,950 luxury Italian leather alligator purse while meeting last week with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his wife, Svetlana.

But according to the White House, the initial reports on the purse's price were wrong because it was a cheaper knockoff of the high-end version. Her aides said Mrs. Obama's patent purse was a more affordable $875 - though in a down economy, that price still produces a decent dose of sticker shock.

Mrs. Obama is often credited for her frugality because she mixes her designer duds with clothing from the mass-retailer J.Crew, although those items are still pricey by many standards. When she volunteered at a D.C. food bank earlier this year she donned a J. Crew cardigan that retailed for $188 with designer Lanvin sneakers priced at $540.

Depression levels

President Obama's economic stimulus package is not yet having any effect on long-term unemployment numbers, a category of job seekers higher than it ever was during the Great Depression.

The number of unemployed has reached 9.2 percent. Those who have been seeking jobs for 15 weeks or longer, considered "long-term unemployed" by the government, is 5.1 percent. During the Great Depression, the long-term unemployed peaked at 4.2 percent.

Democrats supportive of increasing government spending to jump-start the economy and create jobs have urged critics to be patient while the stimulus takes effect.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, pleaded those following on her on Twitter to wait it out.

"No one said it would work magic in 3 [months]" and "unemployment is always a lagging indicator" are two of the messages she posted to her account (clairecmc) over the weekend. Mrs. McCaskill also said she does not support a second stimulus bill, an idea being considered by some of her Democratic colleagues.

• Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@washingtontimes.com.