On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that while she has been in office, 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." Now, it turns out, she complained about the cost when other Alaska politicians did something similar.
What Palin did was legal, but it certainly doesn't fit with the image she's trying to claim, that she's a reformer who has fought to save taxpayers money. Indeed, this type of thing has been political trouble for Alaskan politicians in the past. The Post quoted former Gov. Tony Knowles, a Democrat, as saying, "I gave a direction to all my commissioners if they were ever in their house, whether it was Juneau or elsewhere, they were not to get a per diem because, clearly, it is and it looks like a scam -- you pay yourself to live at home."
And on Wednesday, the Washington Post's Matthew Mosk did some digging into the archives of the Anchorage Daily News and reported that Palin herself has had some issues with a similar practice regarding per diems when other politicians are involved. When the Alaska Legislature held a special one-day session in the summer of 2007, members were allowed to claim per diem expenses at a higher rate than normal as the session was held in Anchorage instead of the capital of Juneau. The Daily News got Palin's reaction: "That makes absolutely no sense, that a seven-hour meeting costs our Legislature over $100,000," Palin said at the time. "What the heck were they charging the state for then?"