Election ’08: Disclosure

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Sarah Palin is turning in her personal financial disclosure forms to the Federal Election Commission on Monday. Will the forms give the pundits yet another excuse to slam on McCain’s veep?

Probably not. We already know most of the information Palin has to share. Despite the spate of recent political scandals tarnishing Alaska’s reputation, the state has a strong financial disclosure law. In the Center’s 2007 survey of state-level ethics law, Alaska ranked sixth. Meanwhile, the Alaska Public Offices Commission already posted all of Governor Palin’s state-level disclosure forms on its website.

At most, the federal disclosure forms will add a greater level of detail to what we already know about Palin’s personal finances. Alaska requires public officials to disclose employment income, investments, assets, real estate, etc., only if they exceed $1,000; the federal forms ask for employment income over $200, and assets, investments, and rental income over $1,000. The federal forms also require candidates to reveal the approximate worth of their financial interests: $1,001-$15,000; $15,001-$50,000; $50,001-$100,000; etc.

In general, though, the Alaska disclosure forms cover the same categories of financial interests as the federal forms. The one exception is “agreements and arrangements,” which include plans for “leaves of absence” and “future employment.” Democratic V.P. nominee Joe Biden, for instance, listed his 2005 book contract with Random House — which paid him the second half of a $224,000 advance when he delivered his manuscript — on the disclosure form he filed in 2007 as a presidential candidate.

Biden’s disclosure forms, by the way, didn’t reveal much new information about his finances, either. The Senate disclosure forms he’s been filing for years require even more detail than the presidential forms on several fronts, including exact amounts for outside employment income and specifics about travel reimbursements.

[Editor’s note: An earlier version incorrectly listed Alaska’s disclosure threshold as $5,000. This was changed to $1,000 in 2007 as the result of a bill backed by Governor Palin.]

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