Thursday, August 4, 2011

Politico reports: Sarah Palin's confidante and former lawyer Thomas Van Flein causes carnage in the office of AZ congressman Paul Gosar, "goes rogue"

By Patrick

Another day, another Palin story which could only come as a surprise to those who are not familiar with the inner workings of the Palin camp. In a surprising move in January 2011, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) placed two members with strong ties to Sarah Palin into high positions within his congressional office in Washington D.C. He appointed Rob Robinson to be his chief of staff and Thomas Van Flein to be his legislative director and deputy chief of staff. Back then, Rep. Gosar was confident that he made the right decisions with these moves. Rollcall reported in January 2011:

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's endorsement helped Rep.-elect Paul Gosar (R) win a seat in Congress, and now he's rewarding the man who introduced the pair with a plum staff position.

Gosar, who unseated Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) in Arizona's 1st district, has named retired dentist Rob Robinson as his chief of staff. Robinson left his son in charge of his Wasilla, Alaska-based dental practice to move to Arizona in 2009 and become Gosar's campaign manager, treasurer and chief adviser.

Gosar told Roll Call that Robinson introduced him to Palin. Robinson got to know Palin from being politically active in their 7,000-population town, where Palin served as mayor. "I know he was very involved in the politics in Alaska and very involved in the politics of Wasilla," Gosar said.

Gosar and Robinson are colleagues in the American Dental Association. Both have served as officers of the group's Council on Government Affairs. Gosar first announced his intent to run for Congress at the association's 2009 national conference in Washington, D.C.

Robinson, who will work from Gosar's Arizona district office, isn't the only person with Palin ties on the fledgling payroll.

Gosar hired Palin family attorney Thomas Van Flein to be his legislative director and deputy chief of staff. Van Flein graduated from the University of Arizona College of Law in 1989, according to his profile on his law firm's website. Van Flein's Alaska law firm, Clapp, Peterson, Van Flein, Tiemessen & Thorsness, helped Palin and her family navigate the Troopergate scandal when she was governor. Van Flein also represented Palin-endorsed tea party Senate candidate Joe Miller. Palin paid Van Flein a hefty retainer over the course of 2010, with the most recent payment of $10,000 coming on Oct. 28, according to her Federal Election Commission filings.

Thomas Van Flein gained notoriety in Alaska and beyond for his passionate handling of all legal issues involving Sarah Palin. He not only handled her personal legal matters and defended her against the mounting ethics complaints, but he also represented Bristol Palin in the dirty custody battle against Levi Johnston, and routinely posted on Sarah Palin's highly politically charged facebook page as the "Private Attorney of Sarah Palin."

Van Flein also unsuccessfully represented Palin's old chum Joe Miller in his doomed legal attack against Lisa Murkowski's write-in victory for Senate in late 2010.

Thomas Van Flein with Joe Miller

If you research the history of Thomas Van Flein, other pieces of information emerge which should have been a clear warning sign for everyone planning to hire Thomas Van Flein (apart from the fact that being the omnipotent lawyer for the most controversial politician in America is probably not the best reference). In an enlightening article from January 2011, TPMMuckraker reported about this piece of very questionable legal work by Thomas Van Flein:

Van Flein, in his work for the ADS (Alaska Dental Society), also wrote an amicus brief for the group in the 2007 appeal of an Alaskan dentist who had been convicted of getting patients hooked on prescription drugs and then manipulating them into having sex with him to get more drugs. The ADS filed the brief in favor of the dentist, Stephen Grandstaff, arguing that the trial court should not have admitted statements Grandstaff made during a peer-reviewed investigation. The ADS argued that anything in peer review is confidential; the court ruled that confidentiality didn't apply to criminal cases. Grandstaff is serving a 19-year sentence.

Regina also highlighted at Palingates in February 2010 how Thomas Van Flein twisted the law in defending Sarah Palin against the accusation that Sarah Palin had been evading property tax for her cabin for years.

Today's revelations at Politico open a new chapter in the already colorful history of Thomas Van Flein:

Staffing problems at the highest level of Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar’s office have thrown his operation into disarray — spurring a string of departures and prompting members of the congressman’s inner circle to reach out for help, internal emails obtained by POLITICO indicate.

Republicans are growing worried that the leadership vacuum is hampering office productivity or worse — impeding fundraising efforts crucial to Gosar’s reelection bid.

“Gosar has serious congressional staff issues,” said one Arizona Republican familiar with the operation. “It’s a total cluster.”

The emails, written by former staffers while they were still on the payroll, implicate chief of staff Rob Robinson and legislative director Tom Van Flein as the heart of the problem.

Gosar’s decision to hire the pair after he was elected raised eyebrows from the beginning — both men had no prior congressional experience and both had close ties to Sarah Palin, who boosted Gosar’s campaign with an endorsement.

Gosar’s relationship with Robinson began long before his recent venture into politics. They met when both served on the American Dental Association’s government affairs council, and eventually grew so close, Robinson quit his Wasilla-based dental practice in 2009 to become Gosar’s chief adviser. Robinson got to know Palin during his time dabbling in Alaska politics and through Van Flein, who also counts as clients Palin and the Alaska Dental Society.

In January, Gosar assured those concerned about Robinson and Van Flein’s lack of political experience that he trusted both men and that their relationships with Palin wouldn’t affect his office. “When it comes to politics, it’s nice to be mired with Sarah Palin. But I’m Paul Gosar. I’m my own person,” he told Roll Call at the time.

But the emails demonstrate that the initial concern over the hirings might have been well founded.

In a lengthy message sent in late January by Gosar’s former communications director, Stefani Zimmerman describes Van Flein as disengaged and preoccupied with the former Alaska governor’s portfolio.

Zimmerman accused Van Flein — who remains one of Palin’s most trusted advisers — of spending office time on Palin and other clients. She also said he “relays information the staff discusses with each other to people like Sarah Palin” and “writes op-eds and speeches without permission, all from Sarah Palin’s point of view.”

In meetings, Zimmerman claimed, Van Flein “asks questions that would benefit Sarah, not Paul,” and “advises Paul from a tea party perspective, not Arizona 1st’s perspective.”

Zimmerman also charged that Van Flein, like Palin, “goes rogue, … takes meetings, advises Paul, etc., without telling anyone, including Rob.”

So here we have a very interesting development: Thomas Van Flein, despite the fact that he left his law firm in Alaska and moved to Washington D.C. to work for Rep. Paul Gosar, apparently is still very active in the background for Sarah Palin - and has no hesitation to use his new position apparently mostly for Sarah Palin's gain, while at the same time, in classic-Palin style, "going rogue."

Thomas Van Flein also seems to have been inspired by the work ethics of America's most famous Quitter, as the leaked emails reveal:

“[Tom] is never at his desk, doesn’t do anything for the office, is very disrespectful of every other staffer in the office, is late for work, is gone all day and leaves early,” Zimmerman wrote. “And that is just the beginning.”

In light of these new developments, the question arises: What makes the office of Rep. Paul Gosar so interesting for Sarah Palin's cronies?

Although there might be several reasons (one could be: Rep. Gosar was just an available "useful idiot" whose trust could be exploited in order to extend Palin's operation quietly to Washington D.C.), one piece of information in the Politico concerning the "National Republican Congressional Committee" (NRCC) article seems especially curious:

“Congressman Gosar is working through the NRCC’s Patriot Program and has the support of this organization. Congressman Gosar and his staff are solely responsible for their office’s personnel decisions,” said NRCC spokesman Paul Lindsay.

So what exactly is the "NRCC's Patriot Program?"

Politico explains in an article from June 1, 2011:

The National Republican Congressional Committee on Wednesday will launch the Patriot Program, a tough-love incumbent protection effort designed to assist freshmen and a few longer-serving lawmakers expected to face difficult paths to reelection.

Under the program, which Republicans implemented during the last election season, only members who agree to meet a series of rigorous campaign benchmarks will be eligible for financial backing from the NRCC.

This year’s effort will focus heavily on the 87-member freshman class. Of the program’s 10 initial inductees, seven — Reps. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, Allen West of Florida, Lou Barletta and Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania, Frank Guinta of New Hampshire, Joe Heck of Nevada and Francisco Canseco of Texas — are first-termers. Two — Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Charlie Bass of New Hampshire — have returned to the House after losing their seats in previous years.

The plan includes one veteran — Rep. Tom Latham, a close ally of Speaker John Boehner who decided to run against Rep. Leonard Boswell after his central Iowa seat was merged with that of tea-party-aligned GOP Rep. Steve King in redistricting.

All Patriot Program members represent districts that President Barack Obama carried in 2008, making them all but certain to be at the top of the Democratic target list in 2012.

It appears to me that being "at the heart" of the Patriot Program which these days focuses especially on the heavily Tea-Party orientated Republican freshmen in Congress would give the Palin-camp valuable inside information, which they then could use to their advantage. Just several days ago, Sarah Palin addressed the Republican freshmen in a surprisingly aggressive way during the debt ceiling debate in a post on facebook, and even made a vaguely disguised threat when she mentioned at the end: “P.S. Everyone I talk to still believes in contested primaries.”

Interestingly, the NRCC is apparently very frustrated about Gosar's staffing decisions, as Politico reveals today:

But another top Republican consultant told POLITICO that he was approached by an NRCC official who was seeking more insight into Gosar’s aides.

“I was asked by the NRCC if I had any relationship with [Robinson] because there were serious staff-level issues. I directed them to Bert Coleman,” said the source, referring to Gosar’s Phoenix-based general consultant.

Coleman did not respond to several inquiries from POLITICO for comment.

The GOP source familiar with the office’s operations suggested the congressman’s close personal relationship with Robinson has clouded his judgment.

“Gosar has spent the past six months covering up for his friends/employees, and the NRCC is clearly frustrated,” the source said.

Can you imagine Thomas Van Flein in a top-position at the White House? Thomas Van Flein as the chief of staff? These are the people with whom Sarah Palin would attempt to run the country, if she was to run for President, which I very, very strongly believe she will.

It's good to see that the media is finally starting to do their job. I don't believe that Politico forgot how Sarah Palin insulted them in November 2010:

"Politico, Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, they're jokes. This is a joke to have unnamed sources tearing somebody apart limb by limb," Palin told Fox News's Greta Van Susteren Sunday. "If they would man up and if they would, you know, make these claims against me then I can debate them, I can talk about it, but to me they're making stuff up again." She railed against unnamed sources, concluding: "I don't think the paper that we just printed this article on, you know, it's not worth even wrapping my King Salmon in. I'll just ignore this crap."

Journalists doing their job is the worst case scenario for Sarah Palin.Link


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