Leaked Report Says Palin's Trust Fund Could Violate Ethics Act

Report recommends "corrective action" to avoid a formal hearing.

ByABC News
July 21, 2009, 10:02 PM

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2009— -- An independent investigator has found evidence that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin may have violated ethics laws by accepting private donations to pay her legal debts.

It's the latest legal distraction for the former vice presidential candidate as she prepares to leave office this weekend, and one thick with irony -- the same vehicle Palin is using to fight ethics charges is now being called a potential ethics violation itself.

According to a leaked confidential report filed on July 14, State Personnel Board investigator Thomas Daniel found there is probable cause to believe Palin used or attempted to use her official position for personal gain because she authorized the creation of the trust as the "official" legal defense fund.

His report states: "I find probable cause to believe that payment of the governor's legal fees by the Alaska Fund Trust will violate the Ethics Act prohibition against a public officer accepting gifts intended to influence performance of official duties."

An investigation was launched after Eagle River resident Kim Chatman issued a complaint on April 27, alleging that Palin was misusing her official position and accepting improper gifts.

In his report, Daniel said his interpretation of the ethics act is consistent with common sense.

An ordinary citizen facing legal charges is not likely to be able to generate donations to a legal defense fund, he wrote.

"In contrast, Governor Palin is able to generate donations because of the fact that she is a public official and a public figure," his report said. "Were it not for the fact that she is governor and a national political figure, it is unlikely that many citizens would donate money to her legal defense fund."

Palin was given a copy of the investigator's report a week ago, Chatman said Tuesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

"It's an absolute shame that she would continue to keep the Alaska Fund Trust Web site up and running," Chatman said.