ALSO: LA Times rebuts 'rumored FBI investigation into...public corruption charges'
By Brad Friedman on 7/5/2009, 1:53am PT  

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin marked the Independence Day holiday by firing back at "false and defamatory allegations" made over the past twenty-four hours; noting limits on the "right of free speech"; declaring herself a victim; and issuing threats of potential litigation against a number of journalists and media outlets.

Through her private attorney, Thomas Van Flein, Palin issued a statement on Saturday in response to stories concerning suggestions of a federal investigation into the contracting and building of her house on Lake Lucille in Wasilla and the Wasilla Sports Complex, both constructed during her tenure as Mayor of the small town.

The four page response [posted in full at the end of this article] rebuts allegations as discussed on this blog and other news sites on Friday following the former Republican Vice Presidential nominee's surprise announcement that she would be resigning from office with a year and a half still remaining in her first term as Governor.

The defiant statement includes a warning "to provide notice" to journalists and media outlets that she "will be exploring legal options this week to address such defamation."

The statement opens by charging that following her stunning, and often beguiling, hastily called press conference at the beginning of the holiday weekend, "several unscrupulous people have asserted false and defamatory allegations that the 'real' reasons for Governor Palin's resignation stem from an alleged criminal investigation pertaining to the construction of the Wasilla Sports Complex."

Also, late tonight, the Los Angeles Times has filed a short article featuring a response from an FBI spokesperson in Alaska who denies that the agency is investigating the Palins on those matters...

Palin Camp Denies Wrong Doing

The Van Flein/Palin statement describes allegations of impropriety and possible indictments as a "canard ... first floated by Democrat operatives in September 2008 during the national campaign and followed up by sympathetic Democratic writers." The attorney describes the charges as "one of many fabrications about Sarah Palin."

"The Sports Complex was built in 2002. It is now 2009," Van Flein writes on Palin's behalf. "While the Federal Government has a process to follow, and that process sometimes takes time, we can categorically state that we are not aware of any 'federal investigation' that has been 'pending' for the last seven years. We are aware of no subpoenas on SBS [Spenard Builders Supply] regarding the Palins."

The statement makes liberal use of direct quotes, such as "federal investigation" and "pending", as seen in the above, but fails to attribute them to anybody in particular. The comment about SBS subpoenas would seem to be in reply to a report at The Daily Beast on Friday by Max Blumenthal (which we linked to and quoted in a late update to our own coverage) asking "Did a Scandal Sink the U.S.S. Palin?" Blumenthal, however, is not named directly in the letter, nor is Daily Beast, nor did he use the word "pending".

Blumenthal had written:

The suddenness of her announcement raises the question about whether Palin resigned to avert a major scandal. One logical place to start looking is the affair that has Alaska political circles buzzing: an alleged scandal centered around a building contractor, Spenard Building Supplies, with close ties to Palin and her husband, Todd.
...
Many political observers in Alaska are fixated on rumors that federal investigators have been seizing paperwork from SBS in recent months, searching for evidence that Palin and her husband Todd steered lucrative contracts to the well-connected company in exchange for gifts like the construction of their home on pristine Lake Lucille in 2002.

Blumenthal went on to detail documented SBS ties to the Palins, comments made to the Fox "News" Channel by Palin's husband Todd about building his own house, and other information suggesting that yesterday's resignation was a last-minute decision, unknown to even other high-ranking Alaskan officials.

The Daily Beast article links (as we also did in our late update, along with extended excerpts) to a October 2008 report by Wayne Barret, described in a footnote in Palin's statement as "a writer for the left wing Village Voice". Barret's detailed, investigative Voice article examined questions about the contract bidding process for the city's $12.5 million sports complex while Palin served as mayor, and other details about the suppliers and architect of her home, both political supporters of Palin's. Both structures were built in Wasilla during the same period and said, as we noted yesterday, to feature the "same windows, same wood, same products."

Van Flein responds by saying the sports complex "was publicly bid, in accordance with City and state law." As to the house, he writes: "Prior to the construction of Lowe's and Home Depot within the last few years in Wasilla, Spenard Builders Supply was the primary building supply company in Wasilla. It can hardly come as a surprise that it would sell materials to small homeowners or that it would also bid to supply commercial contracts."

Bloggers, MSM Put on Legal 'Notice' For 'Abuse of Free Speech'

While The BRAD BLOG was not directly named in Palin's rebuttal statement, Alaskan journalist Shannyn Moore, a blogger at Huffington Post (and occasional guest blogger at The BRAD BLOG) who served, as we noted, as one of our sources for some of our reportage on this matter Friday, is mentioned --- and threatened --- directly in the Governor's statement.

Moore, a longtime Anchorage radio host (currently heard on Fox "News" radio affiliate KBYR), is described by Palin as a "liberal Alaska blogger". She has known Palin for years, having interviewed her many times, and is credited with breaking a number of key stories concerning the Governor over the past year. Moore had hinted at a looming "iceberg scandal" in her initial HuffPo coverage of Palin's resignation Friday afternoon. We filled out that reference with a few more details based on a phone conversation we'd had with her, though the specifics of the "iceberg scandal" were not yet discussed until a further update to our story. That update offered additional details about allegations of an investigation and a possible embezzlement scandal concerning the sports complex and Palin's house, as based on information from a number of Alaskan sources.

Moore and several mainstream media outlets are issued an ominous-sounding warning, in the soon-to-be-former Governor's statement, that they may be challenged with legal actions should they "propagate defamatory material":

To the extent several websites, most notably liberal Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore, are now claiming as "fact" that Governor Palin resigned because she is "under federal investigation" for embezzlement or other criminal wrongdoing, we will be exploring legal options this week to address such defamation. This is to provide notice to Ms. Moore, and those who re-publish the defamation, such as Huffington Post, MSNBC, the New York Times and The Washington Post, that the Palins will not allow them to propagate defamatory material without answering to this in a court of law. The Alaska Constitution protects the right of free speech, while simultaneously holding those "responsible for the abuse of that right." Alaska Constitution Art. I, Sec. 5. http://ltgov.state.ak.us...nstitution.php?section=1. These falsehoods abuse the right to free speech; continuing to publish these falsehoods of criminal activity is reckless, done without any regard for the truth, and is actionable.

Though the words "fact" and "under federal investigation" are quoted directly, Van Flein does not cite the sources of those quotations either.

We spoke with Moore briefly on Saturday night, though she was preparing to host her radio show within minutes, on which, she said, she would likely be discussing Palin's statement. At the same time we were preparing to head out for family festivities for the evening, in celebration of the Independence Day holiday. In our brief conversation, truncated due to both commitments, she expressed concerns about attempts at censorship and intimidation against journalists by a public official, as read in Palin's response. No doubt, if she hasn't already, she will be replying to Palin's statement herself directly, in some form, in the days ahead.

[Update 7/5: As predicted, Moore has now responded. Big time. And she's joined by her fellow AK bloggers. Details here...]

AK FBI: 'No Truth to Rumors We're Investigating'; Palin Plays Victim

Meanwhile, as Palin played the victim card in a post to supporters on her Facebook page, the Los Angeles Times reports late Saturday night that an FBI spokesperson in Alaska categorically denies the Governor is under any kind of investigation by his agency:

A day after Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin resigned, a federal official in her home state dismissed one potential explanation for her sudden and unexpected resignation: a rumored FBI investigation into the former Wasilla mayor on public corruption charges.

Despite rumors of a looming controversy after the Republican governor's surprise announcement Friday that she would leave office this month, some of them published in the blogosphere, the FBI's Alaska spokesman said the bureau had no investigation into Palin for her activities as governor, as mayor or in any other capacity.

"There is absolutely no truth to those rumors that we're investigating her or getting ready to indict her," Special Agent Eric Gonzalez said in a phone interview Saturday. "It's just not true." He added that there was "no wiggle room" in his comments for any kind of inquiry.

On Saturday, Palin also posted a note to supporters on her Facebook page following up on her curious resignation announcement, explaining that "my family and I determined after prayerful consideration that sacrificing my title helps Alaska most."

The LA Times' Josh Meyer finishes up his report with a quote from that post in which Palin describes herself as a victim of those in "Washington and the media" who "will never understand" her "higher calling":

"How sad that Washington and the media will never understand; it's about country. And though it's honorable for countless others to leave their positions for a higher calling and without finishing a term, of course we know by now, for some reason a different standard applies for the decisions I make."

Palin did not respond directly, however, to Republican U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski who issued a statement on Friday, following Palin's shocking and often manic announcement (on Saturday, the LA Times described it as "disjointed and cryptic"), expressing that she was "deeply disappointed that the governor has decided to abandon the state and her constituents before her term has concluded."

It should be noted that Murkowski's father, former Alaskan Governor Frank Murkowski, was unseated by Palin during the 2006 Republican gubernatorial primary.

The latest 'Thrilla in Wasilla' will, no doubt, continya...

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The complete, four-page, July 4th statement from "Thomas Van Flein for Governor Sarah Palin" on the stationery of Clapp, Peterson, Van Flein, Tiemessen, Thorsness, LLC, can be downloaded here PDF. The full text of the statement is posted below...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 4, 2009

On July 3rd, 2009, Governor Sarah Palin announced her intent to resign her gubernatorial duties and transfer the powers of Governor to Lt. Governor Sean Parnell.

Almost immediately afterwards, several unscrupulous people have asserted false and defamatory allegations that the "real" reasons for Governor Palin's resignation stem from an alleged criminal investigation pertaining to the construction of the Wasilla Sports Complex. This canard was first floated by Democrat operatives in September 2008 during the national campaign and followed up by sympathetic Democratic writers.[1] It was easily rebutted then as one of many fabrications about Sarah Palin. Just as power abhors a vacuum, modern journalism apparently abhors any type of due diligence and fact checking before scurrilous allegations are repeated as fact.

The history of the Wasilla Sports Complex is publicly known. Contrary to the insinuation that as Mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin "personally" oversaw bidding, construction, funding and accounting for the project (and thus, the allegation goes, "embezzled" from the project), the truth is far more mundane, and publicly available:

Curtis D. Menard was instrumental in spearheading the effort from conception to realization of the Wasilla Sports Complex. He directed the steering committee that was responsible for placing the issue before the voters of Wasilla and subsequently passed. He remained chairman of that committee through the design and construction of the facility. He was an ardent supporter and leader of civic, educational and athletic endeavors within the community as well as an advocate of the continued success of the Sports Center.

____________________________

1 Wayne Barrett, a writer for the left wing Village Voice, published these insinuations, on October 7, 2008 in a story entitled "The Book of Sarah" available at http://www.villagevoice....8/news/the-book-of-sarah. This was written in the style of one pretending to be amazed that so many people in a small town like Wasilla appear to know one another, support one another, and take on big projects together. Apparently that is uncommon in New York. Rather than recognize that leaders of a community often mobilize to accomplish projects, the writer offered this up as an unusual and questionable association of special interests.

http://www.cityofwasilla.com/index.aspx?page=114. Thus, as any basic fact checker would learn, the Mayor of Wasilla is not listed as "chair" of the Steering Committee. As Mayor, Governor Palin did appoint the committee, another fact readily verifiable, and she was publicly on record supporting the need for such a facility-as was most of Wasilla. "Wasilla weighs sports facility" published December 6, 2001 and available at http://www.adn.com/sarah...ground/story/517370.html. While her public support of this project was deemed pivotal by many, the actual construction, bidding, financing and other day-to-day management of the project was not in her scope of authority as Mayor.

In addition, Sarah Palin was then criticized by some of not showing enough interest in the project. The Frontiersman reported that at a public meeting with the Chamber of Commerce, an opponent of the project "accused Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin of staying quiet about the arena because of her campaign for Lieutenant Governor." "Sports Arena Campaign gets Rolling" http://www.frontiersman....les/2002/02/21/news6.txt (February 22, 2002).

Further, this was a highly public project, approved by the voters, and subject to public bid requirements. As described by the City of Wasilla itself:

The city uses competitive means for the purchase of all goods and services as required by Wasilla Municipal Code 5.08. The city also utilizes contracts and price agreements established by the State of Alaska, the Western States Contracting Alliance and other cooperatives or agencies when it is deemed to be in the best interest of the City. The city believes in open, fair competition and strives to ensure that all vendors have equal opportunity to compete for city business.

The City of Wasilla operates under a decentralized purchasing system. This means purchasing decision up to $5,000 is made independently by the departments in the city (with the exception of Management Information System purchases). When the estimated amount for goods or services is between $5,000 and $9,999, departments are required to obtain three quotes prior to purchase. The departments may utilize the services of the Purchasing/Contracting Officer (PCO) for this process or may do it themselves; however, when this processed is selected, the PCO must sign off on the final product prior to purchasing or contracting.

For purchases beyond $10,000, the city requires all departments to contact the PCO who will utilize the city's bid process according to Wasilla Municipal Code 5.08. The bid process is initiated through either an Invitation to Bid (ITB), utilized when the city knows the specifications for the purchase; or a Request for Proposal (RFP), utilized when the exact specifications or process is unknown.

http://www.cityofwasilla...m/index.aspx?page=360#82. Accordingly, the Sports Complex was publicly bid, in accordance with City and state law, and was accounted for in the time and manner all public projects are handled. The Mayor of Wasilla, be it Sarah Palin, or her successor, did not handle the funds, or the materials, for this project. To thus suggest she "embezzled" is as false as it is impossible.

The additional claim of "proof" of wrongdoing is the allegation that the Palins purchased building materials from Spenard Builders Supply-and that this company may have provided supplies for the Sports Complex. Prior to the construction of Lowe's and Home Depot within the last few years in Wasilla, Spenard Builders Supply was the primary building supply company in Wasilla. It can hardly come as a surprise that it would sell materials to small homeowners or that it would also bid to supply commercial contracts. One would be hard pressed to find a home, cabin or outbuilding in the Mat-Su Valley in which Spenard Builders Supply did not sell at least some of the materials.

The Palins built their Lake Lucille house using Todd as the general contractor. Todd's family owns a hardware and building supply business in Dillingham. He is no stranger to construction, or to rolling up his sleeves and doing work. The Palins used a combination of personal savings, equity from the sale of their prior home, and conventional bank financing to build the house-like millions of American families. The deeds of trust are recordable public records. Basic journalism and fact checking would confirm this.

The Sports Complex was built in 2002. It is now 2009. While the Federal Government has a process to follow, and that process sometimes takes time, we can categorically state that we are not aware of any "federal investigation" that has been "pending" for the last seven years. We are aware of no subpoenas on SBS regarding the Palins. We are aware that the Federal Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation have been helpful, responsive and diligent in prosecuting the email hacker and in cleaning up Alaska's corrupt legislators. To be blunt-this "story" was alleged during the campaign, evaluated then by national media and deemed meritless. Nothing has changed.

To the extent several websites, most notably liberal Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore, are now claiming as "fact" that Governor Palin resigned because she is "under federal investigation" for embezzlement or other criminal wrongdoing, we will be exploring legal options this week to address such defamation. This is to provide notice to Ms. Moore, and those who re-publish the defamation, such as Huffington Post, MSNBC, the New York Times and The Washington Post, that the Palins will not allow them to propagate defamatory material without answering to this in a court of law. The Alaska Constitution protects the right of free speech, while simultaneously holding those "responsible for the abuse of that right." Alaska Constitution Art. I, Sec. 5. http://ltgov.state.ak.us...nstitution.php?section=1. These falsehoods abuse the right to free speech; continuing to publish these falsehoods of criminal activity is reckless, done without any regard for the truth, and is actionable.

Thomas Van Flein, for
Governor Sarah Palin