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Palin's Legal Fund Faces Ethics Challenge

An ethics complaint filed against Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin claims the legal defense fund formed last week to challenge such claims is an ethics violation itself.

The complaint filed Monday with the attorney general's office seeks an investigation by the state personnel board for violations of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. The complainant, Kim Chatman of Eagle River, claims Palin is misusing the governor's office for personal gain by securing unwarranted benefits and receiving improper gifts.

The governor's office said Monday the new complaint and others filed against Palin or her staff show a disturbing trend in Alaska politics.

"It's obvious the intent with this unprecedented action against the governor is to see her administration paralyzed and for her to declare personal bankruptcy," Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

The new complaint targets the Alaska Fund Trust, which Palin supporter and friend Kristan Cole established last week. Palin has said has said she's accumulated more than $500,000 in legal fees from defending herself against ethics complaints and in Troopergate, the Legislature's probe into the firing of Palin's former public safety commissioner.

Chatman's complaint cites as potential donors the 500,000 supporters signed up for Palin's Facebook account and various political organizations.

"Gov. Palin is perched to improperly receive an enormous amount of money for herself and her family and position a pool of pre-paid defense lawyers organized to deflect consequences of wrongdoings," the complaint says.

Chatman told The Associated Press in a phone interview that she voted for Palin as governor in 2006, but now sees her as unethical. Palin "is not holding up her end of the bargain," she said.

Chatman, 49, says she was never politically active until she started watching Palin more closely. Now, "she makes me pay attention," she said.

At least a dozen other ethics complaints have been filed against Palin, most since she returned from the vice presidential campaign last fall. Most complaints are confidential unless a public accusation is filed or the accused person agrees in writing to make it public.

In Troopergate, Palin originally cooperated with the Legislature's investigation before saying the investigation had become too partisan. She then filed an ethics grievance against herself with the Alaska Personnel Board.

The legislative probe found Palin had abused her office but the commissioner's firing was legal. The separate personnel board investigation found there was no probable cause to believe Palin or any other state official violated ethics laws.

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