One of the main reasons Sarah Palin is stepping down as governor, say associates, is her large, unpaid legal bill. Her successor, Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, says she is worried about "the cost of all the ethics investigations and the like." But is that really the reason? John Coale, a Washington lawyer who helped Palin set up a legal-defense fund and PAC, tells NEWSWEEK the fund is "well on its way" to paying off $500,000 in legal debt from the campaign and another $100,000 in bills incurred later, leaving questions about how big a part money woes played in her decision to resign.
One thing is clear: Palin is fuming at the McCain camp, which she believes saddled her with all that debt. At the time John McCain tapped Palin, she was using Alaska state funds to pay the lawyer she hired to defend her against ethics charges. McCain aides, worried that that could raise ethical questions, put an end to the payments. Here's where things get testy: Coale says the McCain campaign, and later the Republican National Committee, led Palin to believe that they would pay her bills, but never did, causing Palin's debt to pile up. But two former senior McCain officials, who asked for anonymity to keep political peace, say there was no such promise (online finance records show no payments to Palin's lawyer). Palin's spokeswoman, her lawyer, and an RNC spokeswoman didn't respond to requests for comment.