The WaPo Swings and Misses (Again) Against Palin

The attacks on John McCain's Vice-Presidential running mate Sarah Palin are starting to get sillier and sillier, with major media outlets now leading with inflammatory and accusatory front-page headlines with little, if any, substantiation for the headlines within the associated articles. This is certainly not going to help the media defend against the growing public awareness that the press is biased against Palin and John McCain.

This morning's example? A front page article in the Washington Post, Palin Billed State for Nights Spent at Home, with the subtitle "Taxpayers Also Funded Family's Travel". An image of the front page of today's Post can be viewed here.

Oh oh, this is it! The Washington Post's intrepid reporters, James V. Grimaldi and Karl Vick, have finally gotten past the invented scandals that the DailyKos was feeding the media, and found evidence of fraud and malfeasance. Perhaps even an impeachable offense! Wow. Those silly Republicans. Nominating such a criminal as Sarah Palin to help run against the Anointed One. Well, they're finally going to get their comeuppance.

The article starts off thrillingly enough, and seems to ensure that big revelations are just around the corner:

ANCHORAGE, Sept. 8 - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a "per diem" allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.

The governor also has charged the state for travel expenses to take her children on official out-of-town missions. And her husband, Todd, has billed the state for expenses and a daily allowance for trips he makes on official business for his wife.

Promising, promising... And as editors at the Washington Post know that average Democrats have only the attention span of a few paragraphs, here come the blockbusting revelations:

Palin, who earns $125,000 a year, claimed and received $16,951 as her allowance, which officials say was permitted because her official "duty station" is Juneau, according to an analysis of her travel documents by The Washington Post.

The governor's daughters and husband charged the state $43,490 to travel, and many of the trips were between their house in Wasilla and Juneau, the capital city 600 miles away, the documents show.

Hold it. State officials say that such an arrangement is allowed under state law? Where's the scandal that supports the headlines? The article goes on:

Gubernatorial spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said Monday that Palin's expenses are not unusual and that, under state policy, the first family could have claimed per diem expenses for each child taken on official business but has not done so.

..."As a matter of protocol, the governor and the first family are expected to attend community events across the state," she said. "It's absolutely reasonable that the first family participates in community events."

The state finance director, Kim Garnero, said Alaska law exempts the governor's office from elaborate travel regulations. Said Leighow: "The governor is entitled to a per diem, and she claims it."

...Leighow noted that under state policy, all of the governor's children are entitled to per diem expenses, even her infant son. "The first family declined the per diem [for] the children," Leighow said. "The amount that they had declined was $4,461, as of August 5."

The family also charged for flights around the state, including trips to Alaska events such as the start of the Iditarod dog-sled race and the Iron Dog snowmobile race, a contest that Todd Palin won.

Oh dear. No scandal. And certainly nothing that warranted that particular headline and lede of a front-page article in one of the last remaining respectable major national newspapers.

This seems to be a story that some editor at the Washington Post wanted to run with that particular headline, regardless of the direction that the facts took it. I hate to break it to the newspaper, but Alaska is half the size of the continental United States. Sometimes, visiting your next-door neighbor is the equivalent of taking a trip from Boston to Washington - and that's expensive. As the article also tells us, many times the invitations extended to Governor Palin by groups and organizations across the state (let alone across the country) specifically requested the presence of her family - a fact which makes Palin's husband and children eligible for reimbursement.

As for the per diem, when your home is 600 miles away and you conduct official business from it, even if it's just a staging area, reimbursement is appropriate. Unlike Senators such as Barack Obama and Joe Biden, a Governor is on-the-job 24 hours a day. Arguably, especially considering the distance, it would not be out of bounds if the state provided a separate budget for running a satellite Governor's office out of her home. If anyone in Alaska doesn't like these arrangements, they can change the applicable state law, which have been in place since long before Palin became Governor. Just because someone at the Washington Post doesn't like it, doesn't mean that it's illegal - or even wrong.

Exciting times! We're watching as whatever's left of the drive-by-media's credibility slowly ebbs away....
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