- The Washington Times - Friday, July 24, 2009

Possible punishment

The Associated Press reported Tuesday evening that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will be found guilty of violating ethics rules in one of the 19 ethics complaints that have been filed against her, citing a leaked report from someone investigating the matter.

Although the report is not final and the State Personnel Board overseeing the matter has made no official statement, the AP story left many people wondering what consequences Mrs. Palin could face and whether the leak could kill the report.

“It is supposed to remain confidential, but it would not necessarily jeopardize the investigation,” said Stacy Moon, vice chairwoman of the Professionalism and Ethics Committee of the Voice of Defense Bar.

According to the AP, the board will say that Mrs. Palin improperly used her public image to raise money for the legal defense fund created to fend off complaints made against her as an elected official.

If she did violate the ethics act, Ms. Moon said that under the most harsh circumstances, Mrs. Palin could be ordered to pay the state twice the amount of the financial gain incurred, a $5,000 fine and face additional criminal sanctions.

PETA’s toy ploy

An animal rights group will be handing out “sea kittens” stuffed animals to children at aquariums this summer to convince them that fish are just as cuddly and worthy of affection as a kitty-cat.

Staffers for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals created plush blue and yellow fish wearing a cat-like mask with long whiskers to encourage children to rebrand the scaly sea creatures, as “sea kittens.”

“If everyone started calling fish ‘sea kittens,’ they’d be a lot less likely to violently kill them for food, painfully hook them for ‘sport,’ or cruelly confine them to aquariums,” said PETA’s Sea Kitten Campaign coordinator Ashley Byrne. “Kids will love our plush sea kitten toys, and we think they’ll be the first to embrace the new name.”

Lesbian parents

The names of lesbian couples living in the District who conceive a child through artificial insemination can now be listed as biological parents on the child’s birth certificate, thanks to a new law.

The Domestic Partnership Judicial Determination of Parentage Act of 2009, which went into effect last week, radically changes the definition of a “parent” by allowing the domestic partner of the child’s biological mother to be listed as a “parent” of the child.

Gay rights advocates say it is a step toward achieving equality.

“A mother should not have to adopt her own child,” said Nancy Polikoff, the professor at American University Washington College of Law who helped write the law in cooperation with the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“When a heterosexual married couple uses artificial insemination to have a child, the husband does not have to adopt the child born to his wife. He is the child’s legal parent automatically. Now the child of a lesbian couple will have the same economic and emotional security accorded the children of heterosexual married couples who use artificial insemination,” she said.

‘Crowdsourcing’ earmarks

Part of the trouble with tracking government earmarks is that the data can be awfully hard to track and put into one place. That’s why Jim Harper will give away a Kindle reading device to the person who goes through the most government forms and uploads needed information to his earmark warehouse.

It’s working so far. Mr. Harper says more than 3,000 earmarks have been submitted to his Web site, WashingtonWatch.com, since he announced the contest last week. He’s also giving a free iPod to the runner-up and a fruitcake to the 3rd-place finisher. That’s right, a fruitcake.

“We wanted to have some fun with it,” he said.

“We put the word out to the public that if we all do a little bit a work a few people can get information millions can use,” Mr. Harper said. The Web site is partially funded by the Sunlight Foundation, which seeks more transparency in government.

The earmark project also has a mapping element that shows users which cities are getting the funding for pet projects.

“This really brings it home for people,” Mr. Harper said. “You can click down to your city and see how earmarks are falling like raindrops and decide, does this company down the street do something important for the country?”

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at [email protected] washingtontimes.com.

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