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Palin returns old donations

The '06 money was from Alaska politicians tied to a scandal. It's going to charity.

September 26, 2008|From the Associated Press

JUNEAU, ALASKA — GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin says she will give to charity more than $1,000 in campaign contributions from two Alaska politicians who were implicated in a public corruption scandal.

Palin's campaign announced late Thursday that it will give back $1,030 donated to her successful 2006 campaign for Alaska governor. It also will return $1,000 from the wife of a once-powerful state senator, according to a spokesman for the presidential campaign of John McCain.

Palin has cast herself as a reformer who holds herself to the highest ethical standards. Campaign spokesman Taylor Griffin said he did not know which charity the money would go to, but expected the return to take place as early as today.

A $1,000 donation came from Republican state Sen. Jim Cowdery, who was indicted this summer and was urged by Palin to resign. Palin returned his donation after the Associated Press began asking questions.

Cowdery was one of two state legislators who donated to Palin's 2006 gubernatorial campaign weeks after the FBI raided their offices. The public corruption scandal that followed became a rallying point for candidate Palin.

One of the donors is awaiting trial, and Cowdery was indicted in July on two federal bribery counts.

The contributions to the Palin-Sean Parnell campaign fund do not suggest any wrongdoing -- lawmakers typically spread donations around to other candidates, and none had any obvious connection to the rising Republican star before she took office.

The federal investigation revolves around an oil-field services firm once known as VECO Corp., whose executives remain at the center of the trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), which began this week in Washington.

On Aug. 31, 2006, FBI agents searched the offices of six state lawmakers, including Cowdery and state Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch.

The government had secretly taped Cowdery in a conversation that prosecutors say proved he conspired with VECO officials to bribe legislators to support changes in Alaska's oil tax structure. Weyhrauch allegedly promised to support VECO's position in exchange for consideration for future work as a lawyer.

VECO quickly came to symbolize outsized corruption in Alaska and Palin was able to capitalize: As the GOP nominee for governor, she campaigned as an outsider and made a point of saying she didn't want money from the company or its employees.

By October 2006, Palin's campaign had received $30 from Weyhrauch in addition to Cowdery's $1,000. Separately, Cowdery's wife, Juanita, contributed $1,000; she is not accused of any wrongdoing.

Cowdery, who is not running for reelection this year, has denied wrongdoing. Weyhrauch, who no longer holds office, has pleaded not guilty; his trial is pending.

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