By now everyone has heard about how Wasilla, Alaska charged for rape kits when Governor Sarah Palin was its mayor. In her defense, Palin ridiculed “the notion of making a victim pay” as “crazy,” suggesting that she didn’t know that her police chief, Charlie Fannon, was doing it.
One would presume, however, that Palin as mayor read her town’s paper, the Frontiersman, and might have noticed that in May of 2000 Fannon was quoted defending the practice of charging victims for their own sexual assault investigation and criticizing a new state bill that banned it.
“In the past. we’ve charged the cost of exams to the victims insurance company when possible. I just don’t want to see any more burden put on taxpayers,” Fannon told the Frontiersman.
What the national media has missed is that after Fannon became the major public proponent of billing rape victims for this investigative tool, Palin promoted him to a new top post and became his biggest political backer.
Instead of facing consequences for his opposition to the legislation, in November 2000 Fannon drew Palin’s support when he “requested the opportunity to take on challenge of coordinating” a new Emergency Dispatch Center in Wasilla, according to a Wasilla-issued press release. Fannon’s starting salary as Police Officer Communication Specialist was his ending salary as Chief of Police, $70,750, but that soon increased to $76,299. What’s more, later Palin urged Fannon to run for Mat-Su Borough mayor in 2003, a position which ranked higher than her own as Wasilla Mayor.
Palin contributed to Fannon’s campaign and even agreed to be its chair at the risk of tarnishing her own political career. The decision to run his campaign put her under public scrutiny because of her role as chairwoman of the Alaska State Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the possible conflict of interest between her role at the commission and Fannon’s support of coal bed methane drilling.
In addition to Palin’s political ties to Fannon, there’s one other indication that the practice of charging for rape kits didn’t trouble her — she signed off on budgets that explicitly lacked funds to cover such charges for the victims.
The Huffington Post’s Jacob Alperin-Sheriff was the first to report that the mayor is responsible for the police department budgets, making the first direct link between Palin and the practice.
Since 1994, each Wasilla police budget has contained a Contractual Services Line Item for “cost for medical blood tests for intoxicated driver and medical exams/evidence collections for sexual assaults.”
From 1994 to 1999, Wasilla, with an average of 10 sexual assaults per year, allocated from $2,500 to $4,000 to cover the cost of rape kits, which cost $300 to $1,200 each. The FY2000 budget, the last police budget approved by Palin before the new legislation was passed, contained only $1,000 for contractual services, enough to cover the minimum cost of only three rape kits.
Judy Patrick, Palin’s deputy mayor and friend, told CNN that Palin would read each department’s budget line by line and send it back to the department heads with changes.
Nick Carney, a former Wasilla city council member, said that Palin decreased the funding for various police programs due to a shortage of funds. Carney, who knew Palin for years and openly criticized her for spending $15,000 to redecorate her offices, told the Voice, “If she had the funds to redecorate her office, she definitely had the money to spend on the rape kits.”
“At the time, I assumed that she made that decision to payback a religious block of voters,” Carney said, explaining that these were religious pro-life voters who objected to the use of morning-after-pill, which is one of the items provided to sexual assault victims as part of a rape kit.
While running for Governor of Alaska in November 2006, Palin stated that she would choose life and not support abortion even if her daughter were raped.
Photo via asecondhandconjecture (cc)