From Lisa Demer in Anchorage --
The second ethics complaint in a week against Gov. Sarah Palin alleges a conflict of interest when she wore Arctic Cat logo gear during this year’s Tesoro Iron Dog snowmachine race.
Arctic Cat sponsors Palin’s husband, Todd, in the world’s longest snowmachine race, Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks.
But Palin, in a statement sent to news media this afternoon under the headline "Latest Bogus Ethics Complaint," said the criticism is unjustified.
“Yes, I wore Arctic Cat snow gear at an outdoor event, because it was cold outside, and by the way, today, I am wearing clothes bearing the names of Alaska artists, and a Glennallen Panthers basketball hoodie. I am a walking billboard for the team’s fundraiser! Should I expect to see an ethics charge for wearing these, or the Carhartts I wear to many public events? How much will this blogger’s asinine political grandstanding cost all of us in time and money?”
Linda Kellen Biegel, a Democrat who blogs under the name “Celtic Diva,” said in her complaint that Palin “improperly used her position and state resources to serve her personal financial interests by being a walking billboard for Arctic Cat, a private for-profit company and family business sponsor.”
A photo on the state Web site shows Palin in a bright white, green and black Team Arctic jacket kicking off the start of this year’s Iron Dog. A photo of her in the Team Arctic jacket and matching pants accompanied an article on Todd Palin and the Iron Dog in Sports Illustrated online.
Biegel said it’s her first ethics complaint against Palin.
Palin’s administration has faced 10 other ethics complaints. A complaint last week accused Palin of improperly posting a political message on the state Web site during the presidential campaign. Six of the 10 complaints have been dismissed, Palin has said.
The governor hit the roof over the latest accusation.
“Are Alaskans outraged, or at least tired of this yet — another frivolous ethics charge by a political blogger? This would be hilarious if it weren’t so expensive for the state to process these accusations and for me to defend against these bogus harassments,” Palin said in Tuesday’s written release.
Palin had no agreement with Arctic Cat to wear the gear, her spokeswoman, Sharon Leighow, said in an e-mail. Leighow said she didn’t know whether Arctic Cat donated the clothing.
In an interview, Biegel responded, “I’m pleased to see that our governor supports our local artists and sports teams but I believe she’s missed the mark when it comes to what this ethics violation is all about.” Arctic Cat financially supports Todd Palin’s snowmachining, benefiting the whole family, she said.
Palin did not specify in her latest financial disclosure how much Arctic Cat’s sponsorship was worth in 2008. The company provided a “Discount on Snowmachines,” the annual disclosure said. In 2007, the sponsorship was worth $7,500.
To defend against various complaints, the governor has accumulated legal bills of more than half a million dollars, she said last week.