ABC News’ Sheila Marikar (@SheilaYM)reports:
Sarah Palin is set to tour national monuments around the country this summer, and one congressman wants to know how that will affect everyone else.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) sent a letter to the National Park Service today asking how federal resources were used for the northeast leg of Palin’s “One Nation Tour,” which traveled from Washington, D.C. to New Hampshire last week. His concern: press accounts of the tour “which provided personal and political benefits to former Gov. Palin, suggest that National Park Service resources were made available to an extent beyond that which an average American family would receive.”
“I opened my paper this morning to hear about cutbacks in state parks around this country,” Blumenauer told ABC News. “We have a serious backlog of maintenance in the National Park Service. And it looks like Sarah Palin’s little political cavalcade gets this amazing VIP treatment – I’m scratching my head. If it’s a private family vacation, what in the world are we doing getting people in with preferential early admission and having an entourage of public employees? It looks like a political stunt, and Palin Inc. ought to pay for it.”
Palin was surrounded by park rangers and, at times, police officers during her tour stops. Last Wednesday, she and her family were accompanied by approximately 10 authorities as they toured the Statue of Liberty.
David Barna, a Park Service spokesman, told ABC News that with the exception of the Statue of Liberty visit, it was business as usual at all the sites Palin saw. (With the exception, of course, of dozens of spectators and press following the former Alaska governor.)
“We recognize she is not a government official, she is not a candidate for public office, so we treated her as any other celebrity that might come in,” he said. He compared the Park Service’s treatment of Palin last week – organizing private tours, opening specific monuments early – to what they might do “for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie."
“If there was any cost, it might have been for the park police at the Statue of Liberty,” he said. “Right now, I don’t know the answer to that."
Barna is seeking answers to Rep. Blumenauer’s question about how much money went into hosting Palin. As far as planning for Palin’s potential visits to other national monuments – she said she plans to visit the West Coast, Iowa and South Carolina this summer – he said, “We haven’t done anything, we’re not involved in anything. We’re just like everyone else, waiting to see what happens.”
While the congressman isn’t necessarily a fan of Palin – he noted, “This is the woman who called my bi-partisan end of life care ‘death panels’” – he said this inquiry “isn’t a vendetta against her.”
“I want to find out what’s going on,” he said. “It shouldn’t be the case with anyone, celebrity or otherwise, that we use resources needed to protect these jewels of the American outdoors and the employees who guard them to give special treatment to VIPs.”
Aides for Palin declined ABC News’ request for comment.