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RNC pays some Palin legal bills in exchange for help
Ex-governor aids fundraising
Question of the Day
The Republican National Committee is paying off some of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s sizable legal fees dating back to the 2008 presidential campaign in exchange for her help raising money for the financially strapped RNC during the campaign season, The Washington Times has learned.
The Times obtained a copy of a check for $128,518.85 that was made out to Anchorage law firm Clapp, Peterson, Van Flein, Tiemessen & Thorsness, which Mrs. Palin hired after a string of ethics charges were lodged against her when she was Alaska’s governor and the GOP’s nominee for vice president.
RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen, who co-signed the check with RNC Chief Administrative Officer Boyd Rutherford, said Mr. Rutherford told him the check was in exchange for Mrs. Palin’s help with RNC Chairman Michael S. Steele to raise money for midterm election campaigns.
“The initial payment was for Palin to do several different fundraising events and sign fundraising letters for the RNC,” Mr. Pullen said. He said the RNC has committed to sending the Anchorage law firm a second check of an equal amount, which would bring the total to $257,037.70.
Asked about Mrs. Palin’s role with the RNC this fall, spokesman Doug Heye declined to say whether her fundraising help was the purpose of the check. He said only that “the disbursement relates to legal fees incurred during the summer and fall of 2008, when Democrats engaged in a partisan witch hunt against Gov. Palin. Based on conversations in 2008, the RNC decided to step in to help.”
Other Republican officials have worried about the state of the national party’s finances under Mr. Steele, in a midterm election season in which Republicans see huge numbers of Democratic seats in play.
Mr. Steele’s immediate predecessor, Robert M. “Mike” Duncan, who was RNC chairman in 2008, said there was no authorization to pay Mrs. Palin’s legal bills while he was chairman. He said the process when he ran the party required approval for such payments from the RNC’s chief counsel, chief of staff and chief financial officer, with the party chairman and general counsel brought in if necessary.
Mr. Duncan said it was still possible for the national party headquarters to make additional legal payments after that, but “I did not authorize or agree to these expenditures.”
Mr. Heye declined to provide copies of the original invoices showing the work for which the law firm billed Mrs. Palin, or comment on whether any of the legal work was performed before Mrs. Palin was elected governor or before she was selected for the national ticket by GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain.
The check to the Anchorage law firm was issued on Sept. 1 of this year.
Mrs. Palin remains a prime draw on the lecture circuit - earning up to $100,000 per speech - and is a commentator on the Fox News Channel. It is reported that she has earned more than $12 million from book sales, television appearances and speeches since she stepped down as Alaska’s governor in July 2009.
“That was payment for services she was providing, including a couple speeches, a couple fundraising letters and a telephone call,” Mr. Pullen said. “There was not a contract so far as I know. It was verbal.”
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About the Author
Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.
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