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Last week the vicious rumor arose that when she was Mayor of Wasilla, Sarah Palin made victims of sexual assault pay for their own Rape Kits. Surprise, Surprise, this one is just as full of crap as the the other rumors.

The Democratic sponsor of the legislation, Eric Croft, told USA Today recently that “the law was aimed in part at Wasilla, where now-Gov. Sarah Palin was mayor.” Yet in six committee meetings, Wasilla was never mentioned, even when the discussion turned to the specific topic of where victims were being charged. (The Matanuska-Susitna Valley, the surrounding region — the most densely populated region of the state, and roughly the size of West Virginia — is mentioned in passing.) Croft testified at the hearing where Phillips read the Juneau woman’s statement, so he must have known that it was a problem well beyond Palin’s jurisdiction, even if he chose not to tell USA Today about it.

And of course, USA Today chose not to investigate the truth. Read more about the Rape Kit lie blow

Wasilla Debunking Kit
Crimes on truth.

By Jim Geraghty

Liberal bloggers have cited the story of Wasilla charging victims for rape kits as evidence that as mayor, Sarah Palin backed cruel and insensitive policies. But just about everything we know from initial accounts of this controversy is wrong.

When the practice came to light, the state passed a law banning it, and the minutes from the state-legislature committees reveal several missing details. Among them:

1.Wasilla was not mentioned in any of the hearings. In a conference call with reporters earlier this month, Tony Knowles (the man Palin beat in her governor’s race) claimed Wasilla was the lone town with the practice. This isn’t true, but he was far from alone in saying or implying this.

Part of the blame goes to the controversy-launching article from the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, which declares, “While the Alaska State Troopers and most municipal police agencies have covered the cost of exams, which cost between $300 to $1,200 apiece, the Wasilla police department does charge the victims of sexual assault for the tests.”

It makes sense for a local paper to focus on the story’s local angle, but this falsely implies Wasilla was an outlier. In fact, at a Finance Committee hearing, Representative Gail Phillips (R., Homer) “read for the record, a statement from a woman in Juneau who had experienced the charges as indicated.” Compare Juneau (population 30,711 in 2000) to Wasilla (population 5,469).

The Democratic sponsor of the legislation, Eric Croft, told USA Today recently that “the law was aimed in part at Wasilla, where now-Gov. Sarah Palin was mayor.” Yet in six committee meetings, Wasilla was never mentioned, even when the discussion turned to the specific topic of where victims were being charged. (The Matanuska-Susitna Valley, the surrounding region — the most densely populated region of the state, and roughly the size of West Virginia — is mentioned in passing.) Croft testified at the hearing where Phillips read the Juneau woman’s statement, so he must have known that it was a problem well beyond Palin’s jurisdiction, even if he chose not to tell USA Today about it.

2. The deputy commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Public Safety told the State Affairs Committee that he has never found a police agency that has billed a victim.

Del Smith, the state’s deputy commissioner at the Department of Public Safety, testified in support of the rape-kit-charging-ban legislation during multiple hearings. During one, state representative Jeannette James asked if she “understood correctly that Mr. Smith is saying that the department has never billed a victim for exams.”

Smith replied that “the department might have been billed, but he has not found any police agency that has ever billed a victim.”

To clarify: In preparation to attend a hearing and support the bill, one of the state’s top law-enforcement officials found no case of a rape victim ever being charged. And roughly a month after 30 Democratic lawyers, investigators, and opposition researchers, not to mention reporters from every major news agency in the country, landed in Alaska, we still have no instances to consider.

The allegation against Palin in the nation’s most widely distributed paper a couple weeks ago — “An aide to a Democratic state legislator tells USA Today that women in Wasilla did pay out of pocket for their rape kits” — is clearly not sufficient, considering the gravity of the charge, the obvious motive to paint Palin badly, and the lack of any corroborating evidence. In light of Wasilla’s low number of rapes according to available FBI statistics (one to two per year, compared to Juneau’s 30-39), and the fact that the Wasilla Finance Department cannot find any record of charging a victim for a rape kit, it is entirely possible that no victim was ever charged.

3. Three times, witnesses told the committees that hospitals were responsible for passing the bill on to victims, not police agencies. If the bill went straight from the hospital to the victim, without ever being sent to the police department, this would explain why no confirming paperwork could be found in the Wasilla Finance Department. This information also fortifies Palin’s claim that she was never aware of the policy, as it is more plausible that a mayor would not be aware of a private hospitals’ billing policy than of the police department’s billing policy.

Lauree Hugonin, director of the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, spoke at several committee meetings. She noted in response to Smith’s comment that while he had not found an instance where law enforcement has forwarded a bill, “hospitals have. It has happened in the Mat-Su Valley, on the Kenai Peninsula, and in Southeast, and that is why the bill is being brought forward.”

At another hearing, Hugonin said, “these charges occur as a result of hospital accounting procedures. The range of costs can be from between $300 and $1,000. The direct charges usually result from the accounting procedures at the hospitals and not the law enforcement agencies. She noted that there has been some difficulty in Mat-Su, Anchorage, Kenai and Sitka, and possibly in Bethel.”

Also at one of the meetings, Trisha Gentile, executive director of the Council on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault, said some Alaska hospitals “have chosen to separate some of the costs of sexual-assault exams. Hospitals are adding sexually-transmitted-disease (STD) and blood tests to the cost of sexual-assault exams, and the hospital makes a choice to bill the victim for those charges. Police departments are willing to pay for sexual assault exams, but it is an internal decision on the part of the hospital as to who pays the hospital bill.”

From the beginning, the story didn’t seem to add up. Nothing in Sarah Palin’s background suggested a callousness to rape victims; it seemed particularly unlikely that a female mayor would support such a bad policy. Palin spokeswoman Maria Comella told USA Today in an e-mail that the governor “does not believe, nor has she ever believed, that rape victims should have to pay for an evidence-gathering test.”

In recent days, some conservative bloggers have noted the strange coincidence of the same anti-Palin smears showing up on liberal blogs at the same time, suggesting some sort of coordination — and have wondered if it reflected the work of a p.r. firm connected to Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod. On Monday, a p.r. executive who has worked with Democratic campaigns in the past admitted he had created videos that included false charges against Palin, but claimed the Obama campaign had no official or unofficial role in the creation of the video.

Whomever they are, those who spread the lie that Wasilla alone had the rape-kit policy, and the Obama campaign itself, owe Palin an apology.

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