THAT’S NOT FISCAL RESTRAINT WE CAN BELIEVE IN…. To hear Sarah Palin tell it in her Republican convention speech last week, she’s a real miser, cutting unnecessary expenditures, and looking out for every dime of the taxpayers’ money. After boasting about putting a gubernatorial jet on eBay — a claim that ultimately proved to be misleading — Palin told attendees, “While I was at it, I got rid of a few things in the governor’s office that I didn’t believe our citizens should have to pay for.”
The “few things” apparently didn’t include some eyebrow-raising per-diem charges.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a “per diem” allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.
The governor also has charged the state for travel expenses to take her children on official out-of-town missions. And her husband, Todd, has billed the state for expenses and a daily allowance for trips he makes on official business for his wife.
By all appearances, Palin did not violate any laws or ethics regulations. She has, however, taken a fairly aggressive approach to reimbursing herself and her family members for various expenses.
Some of the charges seem understandable. Living in Alaska, a geographically enormous state, and traveling between Wasilla and Juneau, is bound to produce some hefty travel costs.
What’s less understandable, though, are per-diem charges for nights in which the Palins were home, and charges for Todd Palin to go on “information gathering” errands.
When lining up the various Palin-related scandals, the questionable per-diem charges still fall well short of the ongoing abuse of power investigation, in terms of seriousness. She’ll probably face some questions about “paying herself to live at home,” but for my money, it’s still a bigger deal that she lied about the circumstances surrounding her dubious dismissal of the state’s public safety commissioner.
That said, a story like this might be damaging, if for no other reason, because it interferes with the McCain campaign’s narrative about Palin — she looks a lot less like a fiscally-responsible maverick and careful steward of tax dollars when a story like this one lands on the front page.