Sarah Palin poses next to the Liberty Bell at Independence Hall, a National… (Jeff Fusco / Getty Images )
Reporting from Washington — A Democratic congressman wants to know if Sarah Palin's bus tour of national treasures ended up draining the Treasury.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon is concerned that Palin's Paul Revere Plus tour garnered special treatment from the National Park Service last week. He sent a letter outlining his concerns to the director of the service Tuesday.
"Many of the press accounts of stops included in this 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 an average American family would receive,” he wrote.
The letter cites several accounts from the press, including a Washington Post item that the service provided a “private guided tour of Mount Vernon, early admission into the National Archives, and private tours at all the federally managed National Park Service properties [the bus tour] visited but one.”
The letter also cites an ABC News report that Palin received a 10-person escort last week at the Statue of Liberty.
Blumenauer requests that the service provide “written explanation of the Park Service’s policies on the use of taxpayer-funded resources for publicity events, as well as an accounting of Park Service resources that have been utilized by the 'One Nation' tour."
Without specifically addressing Blumenauer’s letter, David Barna, a spokesman for the service, said Palin was afforded treatment given any VIP or celebrity. He likened Palin to “Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie” and noted that if such celebrities are interested in touring a park site, the service tries to schedule a tour beyond normal hours so that the visits by regular tours aren’t disrupted.
“It’s not unusual for us to do that,” Barna said. “We do VIP things all the time.”
Barna said no additional government resources were used to accommodate the Palin family, with the possible exception of two U.S. Park Police officers who escorted Palin on Liberty Island. The service is still looking into whether they received overtime, he said.
Mount Vernon and the National Archives do not fall under the purview of the National Park Service, he noted. But the service does operate the Gettysburg National Military Park, the Statue of Liberty and the Freedom Trail in Boston, all of which were toured by the Palins.
But Barna said that Palin and her family received a tour of Gettysburg given by a foundation, while Freedom Trail is simply a path that connects historic sites in Boston.
Barna said the service in learning about Palin’s plans reached out to the former Alaska governor’s public relations firm and was told that Palin “didn’t want any special attention.”
“It was small family event,” he said. “We weren’t even sure what day they were going to show up.”
Blumenauer's press secretary, Derek Schlickeisen, said the purpose of Palin’s tour remains unclear. “What exactly was this bus tour supposed to be? If it was a political campaign event, then it is inappropriate for any federal resources to be used,” he said. “If it was just a family vacation, then she shouldn’t be entitled to any special treatment beyond what the average American family would receive.”
Schlickeisen couldn’t resist taking a swipe at Palin, who has been ridiculed in some quarters for saying that Paul Revere’s legendary Midnight Ride in 1775 featured Revere brandishing bells and firing off shots to warn the British about American resolve.
“And for all the public resources that were used for her private tours of historical sites,” he said, “it’s clear she didn’t learn much about history either.”