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CAMPAIGN '08: RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE

Palin billed state for nights at home

Her daughters and husband charged $43,490 for travel.

September 09, 2008|From the Washington Post

ANCHORAGE — 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. Her husband, Todd, has billed the state for expenses and a daily allowance for trips he makes on official business for his wife.

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, the documents show. Many of the trips were to and from their house in Wasilla and Juneau, the capital city 600 miles away.

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

The popular governor collected the per diem allowance from April 22, four days after the birth of her fifth child, until June 3, when she flew to Juneau for two days. Palin moved her family to the capital during the legislative session last year, but prefers to stay in Wasilla and drive 45 miles to Anchorage to a state office building where she conducts most of her business, aides have said.

Palin rarely sought reimbursement for meals while staying in Anchorage or Wasilla, the reports show.

She wrote some form of "Lodging -- own residence" or "Lodging -- Wasilla residence" more than 30 times at the same time she took a per diem, according to the reports. In two dozen undated amendments to the reports, the governor deleted the reference to staying in her home but still charged the per diem.

Palin charged the state a per diem for working on Nov. 22, 2007 -- Thanksgiving Day. The reason given, according to the expense report, was the Great Alaska Shootout, an annual NCAA college basketball tournament held in Anchorage.

In separate filings, the state was billed about $25,000 for Palin's daughters' expenses and $19,000 for her husband.

Leighow said many of the hundreds of invitations Palin received included requests for her to bring her family.

Leighow noted that under state policy, all of the governor's children were 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 Aug. 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 Todd Palin has won four times.

Gov. Palin has spent far less on personal travel than her predecessor: $93,000 on airfare in 2007, compared with $463,000 in 2006 by Frank Murkowski.

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