From Erika Bolstad in Washington D.C. --
The Web site for Gov. Sarah Palin's legal expense fund is now up and running. Palin's longtime friend Kristan Cole is the trustee for the fund, which will cap donations at $150.
Here's Cole's statement on the fund's site: "Over the past months it became increasingly clear that supporters of Governor Palin needed to help defend against the onslaught of frivolous attacks against her. These baseless accusations are designed to inhibit her ability to focus on the issues Alaskans truly care about and force massive personal debt on her and her family. I joined with fellow Alaskans in forming the Alaska Fund Trust to help alleviate the governor's legal debt incurred while performing her job as well as eliminate the incentive for future attacks by her opponents. In doing so, we have created one of the most restrictive and transparent legal funds in history."
Palin owes more than a half million dollars to an Anchorage law firm that has been defending her against ethics complaints, which Palin has called partisan, false and frivolous.
The debt, amassed since she entered the national spotlight as the Republican vice presidential candidate, was revealed last month in her annual financial disclosure filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission. It is owed to the Alaska law firm Clapp, Peterson, Van Flein, Tiemessen and Thorsness.
The most recent ethics complaint came this week by Anchorage resident Sondra Tompkins, who describes herself as an advocate for children with disabilities and mother of a special-needs child. In her complaint, she says the governor abdicated her duties at a critical time -- the end of the legislative session, when she went to Indiana for two events, a Right to Life banquet and a breakfast for families with Down syndrome children.
"The recent partisan trip to Indiana by the governor was purely to benefit personal interests, had no benefit for the state of Alaska and was in direct conflict with her official duties," the complaint said.
Palin's office shot back, calling the complaint outrageous and the allegations false, ridiculous, and an abuse of the state ethics act.
Palin set up her own legal expense fund after a Texas businessman created an unsanctioned one earlier this month. Clayton Paslay, who splits his time between Texas and California, said he's a Palin fan and said he didn't like the way she was treated in the fall election. So in December, he created a political group called Free American Citizens to support his favorite causes and conservatives, including Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Paslay said he doesn't know Palin and hasn't been able to get through to talk to her directly.
Paslay said he decided to ask people to donate to the fund after hearing Fox News host Bill O'Reilly make a pitch to viewers to help Palin pay her legal bills.