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Palin defense fund may be unethical, investigator says

  • Story Highlights
  • Investigator: Ethics law doesn't allow funds to pay for personal gain or expenses
  • Palin let supporters set up a legal defense fund to help ethics complaints battle
  • Palin's attorney preparing information for investigator, says report not final
  • Palin cited cost of battling ethics complaints as reason for resignation
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(CNN) -- Outgoing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin may have violated state ethics laws by letting supporters set up a legal defense fund to help her battle ethics complaints, a preliminary report on the issue has found.

Sarah Palin's attorney says the report is not final, and he is preparing more information for the investigator.

Sarah Palin's attorney says the report is not final, and he is preparing more information for the investigator.

An investigator hired by the state personnel board recommended Palin -- who gives up her office on Sunday -- refuse money from the defense fund and ask the state to pay legal fees for ethics complaints that have been dismissed.

Palin attorney Thomas Van Flein said the report is not final, however, and he is preparing "supplemental information" for the investigator.

"There has been no Board finding of an ethics violation, and there is a detailed legal process to follow before there is a final resolution," Van Flein said in a statement released to reporters. He added, "Whatever you have seen was released in violation of law."

In a posting on her Twitter page, Palin said, "new info was just requested even; no final report."

Palin was the Republican vice presidential candidate in 2008. In announcing her resignation earlier this month, she cited the cost of battling ethics complaints filed by critics as one of the reasons she is quitting about two-thirds of the way through her four-year term.

Most complaints have been dismissed, though one led to her paying back taxes on state per diem funds, and she agreed to repay about $8,100 in travel expenses for her children in another case.

Palin supporter Kristan Cole formed the Alaska Fund Trust in April to pay legal bills Van Flein said topped $500,000. Its Web site features a photograph of Palin and her husband, Todd, and calls itself "the official legal fund created to defend the integrity of the Alaska governor's office from an onslaught of political attacks."

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, Cole said the fund "was thoroughly vetted by numerous attorneys from Alaska to the East Coast." According to a copy of the preliminary report obtained by CNN, Personnel Board investigator Thomas Daniel wrote that Cole told him Palin approved the use of her photo and the "official" designation.

"In light of the evidence that the governor expressly authorized the creation of the trust and the fact the trust Web site quite openly uses the governor's position to solicit donations, there is probably cause to believe that Gov. Palin used, or attempted to use, her official position for personal gain," Daniel wrote.

Daniel wrote that it would be "particularly appropriate" for the state to pay legal fees for a public official when an ethics complaint is dismissed -- but he said the state Ethics Act would have to be changed to do so.

"I can only apply the Ethics Act as currently written," he wrote. "And as currently written, it does not allow a state official to use her position to solicit funds to pay for a private attorney or any other personal expense."

The Alaska Fund Trust limits donations to $150 and bars state contractors or lobbyists from contributing. It has not yet reported contributions.

CNN's Kevin Bohn and Tracy Sabo contributed to this report.

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