Kristan Cole, Trustee
The Alaska Fund Trust
July 22, 2009
Thank you for being here today. My name is Kristan Cole, Trustee to the Alaska Fund Trust. And this is the Trust's attorney in Alaska, Jon Givens.
I am here to address the unusual letter that was leaked yesterday, the contents of which are unprecedented in the history of our country, suggesting that a legal defense fund could somehow be unethical. This is particularly notable, and concerning, in light of the fact that the Trust, on my instructions, has not paid even one penny to Gov. Palin or her lawyers. I issued that instruction because I was aware the Board was reviewing this matter.
This Trust was created by a team of expert lawyers from around the country. It was thoroughly vetted for compliance with federal and state law and trust law. So far Mr. Daniel is the only lawyer in the country who has questioned a legal defense fund despite the fact that his firm has set up legal defense funds for other office holders. Because his initial review was unprecedented and contained factual errors it was my understanding that Gov. Palin's legal team, including Mr. Van Flein, were in on-going discussions with Mr. Daniel. The matter was not final.
I want to be clear on a point that has been misrepresented: The Governor is not and was not involved with the Trust. The Governor has never worked on or with the Trust. The Governor has not even accepted or requested one penny from the Trust or quite frankly anything of me. And I have never expected anything from her. Really it’s quite the contrary; as I, and many other caring folks across the country have only sought to help with this legal burden.
The first and only time I have spoken with the Governor about the Trust was yesterday to alert her that I was responding to this violation of the law and leak of preliminary and confidential materials from the complainant.
There is a loophole in Alaska law. Alaskans can file frivolous complaints against the Governor - violate the law and alert the media they are doing so, all the complaints can be dismissed and yet the Governor has to personally pay for representation. Legislators covered themselves with a law that warrants automatic dismissal of a complaint if it is leaked to the public.
It has been quite obvious to me, and to other every day citizens like me, that over the last several months that something needed to be done to help the Palins with the overwhelming crush of frivolous ethics complaints.
In their own humble way, the Palins never asked for help. The Governor never even asked anyone to contribute to this legal expense fund. This trust, and the thousands and thousands of dollars raised, were the results of hard working Americans and their outpouring of support. It is disgraceful that anyone would assume that the thousands of people who sent in $5, $10 or $50 intended to "influence" the governor's official actions in Alaska! And this in a state where a half dozen legislators have been convicted of corruption as well as the previous governor's chief of staff. Not one ethics complaint was filed against these individuals who were convicted, but this governor is harassed for having her picture taken with a fish, wearing a jacket, answering press questions and giving a speech.
A few select people have abused our ethics act. The public release of a preliminary document in violation of state law follows that pattern. The people of this state are losing hope that the ethics act has any real purpose anymore and that’s incredibly sad as ethics are so important. Mr. Daniel's preliminary assessment, unprecedented in history and harshly criticized by legal scholars, does nothing to restore credibility to this process.
Numerous individuals thought to help the Palins - not just me. But when I was asked, I was doing research of my own and determined that I would put my name on a Trust already going through an intense legal process throughout the country to ensure that this one was airtight and complied with every possible law under the sun. And this one does. It is one of the most restrictive and transparent trusts of its kind. The validity of the Trust is strong. It is unprecedented in every way imaginable... all donations must be under $150, no donations from lobbyists, and nothing accepted from foreign nationals to name a few. No trust has ever been found to be a violation of ethical standards for any governor, former president, senator, or house member, or former member of Congress. But this Trust which has more severe donation and donor limits than any trust in the history of legal defense trusts might violate ethical rules?
Some Trust funds are formed and accepted to defend politicians in true Courts of Law with regard to some very serious criminal charges. And yet, this Fund was created by others to help the Palins pay for their legal bills due to frivolous complaints - each of which has been dismissed thus far. I will let my attorney speak to the legal issues but I wanted to take this opportunity to speak to yesterday's blatant violation of the law.
You know, we have witnessed time and again the blatant abuse of process when it comes to people filing these complaints and illegally discussing them and leaking them to the press- but this latest move further crosses the line and we are all reviewing action for the reputational harm caused by Ms. Chatman based upon the leak of Tom Daniel's preliminary thinking on the matter - a product that may have ultimately been remarkably different and perhaps even dismissed. Where is the accountability for those who blatantly disregard the requirement to keep the issue confidential?
There are many questions which need to be asked following my read of what was leaked.
And, if I may digress - this is how backwards our laws are - I had to go online and read the preliminary letter about the Trust and me because Mr. Daniel and Mr. Van Flein cannot violate the confidentiality of the Ethics Act (even though it appears the complainant has)and therefore cannot even forward the preliminary letter to me. Now that I have read it, I still hope to inform Mr. Daniel of the important information that Mr. Van Flein had requested from me to be shared with Mr. Daniel.
What was the reason for my involvement? The preliminary letter suggests that perhaps I served as Trustee so I could get some job with the state. This is amazingly wrong and so incredibly hurtful. That is the last thing I want. I did this because it believed it was the right thing to do for our Governor. I love Alaska. I have lived here 40 years and I have always served the state when asked - and despite the fact that I am entitled to public monies in the form of expenses, per diem and wages - I have declined every single penny. I have served as a volunteer on others boards, and commissions (The Real Estate Commission and the Agricultural Revolving Loan Fund Board) under a previous Governor so volunteer work has been part of my life for a long time. I was approached to serve as Trustee for the legal defense fund. I did not seek out this position just as I have never sought out any other position but was willing to step up to the plate and serve when asked because that’s what we all do when asked to serve our country, our state and our communities isn’t it? We do it because it’s the right thing to do and by all of us serving where we can, we all benefit. My sons and my husband have served our country. I have served our state and our community here in the Mat Su Valley with the hope that we are making a difference where we can.
So how unfair is it that the Governor can be told she was wrong for putting together the Fund, soliciting Funds, accepting the Funds and spending the Funds when she hasn't been involved at all----And no money has been spent on her legal defense?
If the Governor only accrued the bills because she is a public figure then why is it wrong for a Trust to collect funds to defend her as a public figure? Alaska law specifically states that there is only a problem if there is "intent" to influence the Governor. How can there be intent to influence a Governor in Alaska with a $5 voluntary donation from Kansas? To date, approximately 90% of the contributions are from Outside Alaska and many are $5, $10 and $20 donations. Not one penny has been paid to any law firm or entity for the Governor's financial gain. If the Governor has not solicited or accepted personal gain, how can she be in violation of soliciting and accepting monies for personal gain?
Let’s review what has been deemed lawful. Creation of the PAC and fundraising was deemed lawful. Writing a book was deemed lawful. All other legal defense funds similar, but not as restrictive as this one, have been deemed to be lawful. The very firm who put together Senator Kerry’s legal defense fund which was deemed lawful was put together by the very law firm that Mr. Daniel is employed by. These are inconsistent conclusions and defy common sense. That is why this matter was not final and Mr. Daniel and Mr. Van Flein were discussing these issues.
Potential future gain, based upon no active solicitations, in one of the most stringent legal expense funds in the country does not merit a situation much less a violation. Mr. Daniel says that because the Trust was an "official" Trust he felt it violated the law. This overlooks the necessity of having one "official" fund. The unofficial funds are the very ones that had the potential to harm the public by unscrupulous people.
We knew that in fairness to Alaskans and Americans, this site needed to be official because of the potential scams that could arise. How ethical would it be for a pensioner in Iowa or a single mother in New Hampshire to have their donation diverted by someone who had no intention of helping the Governor and may keep the money for themselves or other equally harmful things?
But let's think through the same logic, if a foreigner wanted to set up his or her own fund, collect a handsome payoff, and accept $5 million donations from rogue groups even, as long as that person did not tell the Governor, that would be okay? That is the conclusion that is being reached here in Mr. Daniel letter and flies in the face of good logic, common sense, and the good necessity of protecting the public.
Every aspect of the Alaska Fund Trust follows the law. Precedent allows for it. The Palins haven't been involved with it. It is unfortunate that some in the media were so quick to point the finger at the Governor for something others are responsible for and have established to assist her in the fight against these outrageous attacks. And this acceptance that the law can be continually violated for pure political gain ... is wrong.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Trustee Kristan Cole Gives This Statement In Press Conference Today:
Regarding claims that the Alaska Fund Trust is unethical:
Posted by Tami at 8:31 PM