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As Governor, Palin Accepted $25,000 in Gifts

As if the McCain campaign didn’t have enough to worry about with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s two cringe-inducing interview segments with Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News — and yet more to come. Now The Washington Post drops this bombshell.

According to Alaska state records, during her tenure as governor, Palin accepted dozens of gifts worth a total of more than $25,000 from “industry executives, municipalities and a cultural center whose board includes officials from some of the largest mining interests in the state.”

Palin received the majority of these gifts in the early months of her administration, while she was pushing her much-ballyhooed ethics reform package through the state legislature — which banned state officials from accepting such gifts.

From The Post:

The 41 gifts Palin accepted during her 20 months as governor include honorific tributes, expensive artwork and free travel for a family member. They also include more than $2,500 in personal items from Calista, a large Alaska native corporation with a variety of pending state regulatory and budgetary issues, and a gold-nugget pin valued at $1,200 from the city of Nome, which lobbies on municipal, local and capital budget matters, documents show.

About a quarter of the entities bestowing gifts on the governor are represented by one of Alaska’s most influential mining lobbyists, who said in an interview that she was not involved in the tributes. The lobbyist, Wendy Chamberlain, has a relationship with the governor’s family through the friendship of their teenage daughters.

On forms disclosing the gifts, Palin, who is the Republican vice presidential nominee, routinely checked “no” when asked whether she was in a position to “take official action that may affect the person who gave me the gift,” and a spokeswoman for Sen. John McCain‘s presidential campaign said the gifts had no undue influence on her.

In response to e-mailed questions, Meghan Stapleton, who is based in Alaska for the McCain-Palin campaign, wrote: “Throughout her career Gov. Palin has stood for the highest standards of ethics. She spearheaded new ethics reforms in Alaska and took on her own party and entrenched interests to return Alaska’s government to its people.”

Records show that 23 of the gifts were offered during Palin’s early months in office, when she was pushing the legislature to address a state corruption scandal by passing a package of ethics reforms. She accepted 18 gifts after the law passed in July 2007. Among other provisions, the law forbade executive branch officials from taking gifts from lobbyists or from interests with pending state business.

According to the article, Palin introduced her ethics reform legislation in January 2007, her first month in office.

That month, she accepted three gifts from Calista’s chief executive, Matthew Nicolai: a $2,200 ivory puffin mask, a woven grass fan worth $300 and a $150 ivory necklace. Nicolai, who did not return phone calls, runs the large corporation, which profits from a multibillion-dollar gold-mining operation on its land.

Palin, who holds significant sway over budgetary issues affecting cities, also accepted for “personal use” the gold-nugget pin from Nome. Mayor Denise Michels said the memento was meant to remind the governor that “Nome is a historic mining community.” Palin approved about $6 million in funding this year for a public safety building in the city. “Anything our state can do to help us in capital projects, we’re very grateful,” Michels said.

Palin’s husband, Todd, also accepted two fact-finding trips sponsored by mining companies as gifts, according to The Post. A list of all the gifts is available here.

The article does not appear to allege illegal activity. But much like the “Bridge to Nowhere” and the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of earmarks Palin requested for her state, it clearly pokes another hole in the alternate reality that the McCain campaign has tried to create around Palin’s record in Alaska.

As MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann noted Thursday on “The Rachel Maddow Show,” because Palin was a relative unknown on the national stage when McCain chose her as his running mate, the campaign saw in her a blank slate on which to project the image of their choosing — in this case, that of the maverick reformer, which neatly coincided with the image McCain has sought to project for himself.

However, the more information has come out about her past, the more difficult it is to square that image with the facts.

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