Facing an ongoing ethics investigation, newly minted Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin will be represented by an Anchorage attorney paid with state funds, the Alaska state Legislature announced Monday.
Palin's new counsel, Thomas Van Flein, a partner in the Anchorage firm of Clapp, Peterson, Van Flein, Tiemessen & Thorsness, was brought in by the state's law department because Attorney General Talis Colberg has a conflict of interest that prevents him from representing Palin. Van Flein will be paid $185 an hour to represent Palin and others in the governor's office, up to $95,000, according to an Anchorage Daily News story.
On Monday the Legislature's investigative committee released an e-mail it received from Van Flein on Friday. In that message, Van Flein, who was hired by the Legislature Aug. 21, wrote, "We fully welcome a fair inquiry into these allegations," a reference to Palin's July 11 firing of Alaska public safety commissioner Walter Monegan. The legislative committee is probing whether Monegan was forced out of his job because he refused to fire a state trooper enmeshed in an ugly divorce squabble and child-custody dispute with Palin's sister. "Please know that we intend to cooperate with this investigation," Van Flein wrote.
On July 28, the state legislative counsel, a bipartisan panel of senators and representatives, approved $100,000 for the investigation and hired Stephen Branchflower, a former Anchorage prosecutor, to lead the probe. Sen. Hollis French, an Anchorage Democrat and former state prosecutor, directed Branchflower not to comply with Van Flein's request for copies of all witness statements and documentary evidence. Van Flein, meanwhile, has argued that the investigation should be shifted to the state's personnel review board from the Republican-dominated Legislature.
Van Flein, an Alaska defense lawyer who has represented dentists and medical doctors in state licensing matters, donated $1,500 to Palin's 2006 gubernatorial campaign. (Later that year a voter initiative capped donations in state races at $500.)
Branchflower, a 24-year veteran of the Anchorage district attorney's office, also directed the Alaska Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, and later the Alaska Office of Victims' Rights. His wife, Linda, worked in the Anchorage police department and as a state trooper.