WaPo’s latest cooked up scandal against Gov. Palin

When last we left you, they were bogusly claiming that Gov. Palin “slashed” funding for teen moms earlier this year via line-item veto. That story was debunked hours after the WaPo first reported it. To my knowledge, they still have not issued a correction.

The latest comes in the form of a poorly worded, insinuation-filled story from the WaPo, with the following very misleading headline (via Memeo):

Palin Billed State for Nights Spent at Home

Gasp! Here’s more:

ANCHORAGE, Sept. 8 — Alaska 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.

The governor also has charged the state for travel expenses to take her children on official out-of-town missions. And her husband, Todd, has billed the state for expenses and a daily allowance for trips he makes on official business for his wife.

Palin, who earns $125,000 a year, claimed and received $16,951 as her allowance, which officials say was permitted because her official “duty station” is Juneau, according to an analysis of her travel documents by The Washington Post.

The governor’s daughters and husband charged the state $43,490 to travel, and many of the trips were between their house in Wasilla and Juneau, the capital city 600 miles away, the documents show.

Gubernatorial spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said Monday that Palin’s expenses are not unusual and that, under state policy, the first family could have claimed per diem expenses for each child taken on official business but has not done so.

Sigh.

A number ofร‚ย  blogs have patiently refuted and debunked this latest “scandal.” A reader of NRO’s The Corner did some research and emailed Jonah Goldberg as to what “per diem” mean according to Alaska state law.

David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy did some digging:

You have to read the article carefully to figure this out, but what the story ultimately reveals is that Palin (a) billed the state for most expenses allowed by law, including per diem when she stayed in her own home (her “duty station” was the state capitol of Juneau) in Wasilla; (b) didn’t bill the state for other expenses, when she could have done so lawfully, such as per diems for her children; and (c) spent a lot less money on expenses than did her predecessor, especially on travel and by ridding herself of the state’s personal chef. [FWIW, she apparently maintained two residences, the governor’s mansion in Juneau, where assumedly she didn’t get a per diem (but where her predecessor had a personal chef), and Wasilla, from which she commuted to Anchorage for work when the legislature wasn’t in session. Saintly to take the per diem she was legally entitled to when in the second residence? No. Worthy of the lead headline on Washingtonpost.com? Please! Not illegal, not unethical, and not a scandal.]

[…]

Also, the article headline, “Palin Billed State for Nights Spent at Home,” and some related content, is very misleading. A glance at the expense report reproduced on the Post’s website makes it clear that she requested per diem for her daily expenses, but not for lodging, and that she apparently wrote “lodging–own home” only to explain why she wasn’t requesting hotel expenses. One almost wonders whether the author of the story understands what a “per diem” is; the story notes that Palin rarely charged the state for meals when in Wasilla and Anchorage, but of course she didn’t, because she instead just asked for the per diem!

James Joyner adds:

Indeed, if one looks at the State of Alaska Per Diem rates sheet [PDF] (July 2008) it explicitly provides that even relatively low level employees are entitled not only to per diem but to reimbursement of commuting costs if “they return to their residence on their own time (e.g., weekends)” and that they are entitled to per diem even for “at-home meetings” for which “they receive no per diem for lodging.”

I know the mediots are in a rush to find out and publish what they learn about Gov. Palin as soon as they get it, because everyone wants to know more about her, but the least – the very least – they can do is dig a little deeper before publishing something that is (again) proven within a matter of hours to be grossly misleading (especially the headline), and implies to the reader that Gov. Palin did something unethical/illegal.

Fed up? Write the WaPo ombudsman and let her know what you think: ombudsman@washpost.com

Related: Introducing the Gov. Palin Truth Squad.