The online left has continued to throw everything including the kitchen sink at Governor Sarah Palin. They are doing so in hopes of sinking the McCain/Palin ticket and preemptively stopping any potential comeback in the polls. One of the favorites of the left is the rape kit. As I linked to before, it is a favorite of AOL Political Machine blogger Tommy Christopher.
On Wednesday, October 8, 2008, Mr. Christopher put up a piece titled Fact Check: Palin Rape Kit Story True on Political Machine. In that piece he links to a Media Matters piece that attempts to lay claim to the veracity of this story.
The story goes that Wasilla, Alaska, when Palin was mayor, had a practice of charging rape victims for the rape kits. The biggest problem is that the numbers don't add up. The numbers even seem to go against what Palin's Police Chief has said:
In the past weve[sic] charged the cost of exams to the victims insurance company when possible. I just dont[sic] want to see any more burden put on the taxpayer, Fannon said.
Prior to Palin
From the Media Matters piece, we get a link to Huffington Post blogger Jacob Alperin-Sheriff's piece New Evidence: Palin Had Direct Role In Charging Rape Victims For Exams. Mr. Alperin-Sheriff was able to track down the police chief who Palin fired after coming into office:
It turns out that Wasilla did not bill sexual assault victims for the cost of rape exams while Irl Stambaugh was chief of police. As chief, he had included a line item in the budget to pay for the cost of such exams.
The Budget Line Item
The line item in the budget that former Chief Stambaugh refers to is also outlined by Mr. Alperin-Sheriff:
In fact, the department's first full-year budget, for fiscal year 1994 (July 1, 1993-June 30, 1994), included a line item specifically to pay for medical examinations. This line item was denoted "contractual services", and was described on page G-26 of that budget (available in this PDF on page 42) as covering "costs for medical blood tests for intoxicated drivers & medical exam/evidence collection for sexual assaults."
Starting with the last budget under Mayor John Stein, the FY97 budget (July 1, 1996-June 30, 1997), the line item explanations became less detailed, with the explanation for the "contractual services" line item for several departments combined into one. The explanation reads "Contractual Services/General-medical testing, road maintenance, equipment rental, airport snow removal."
Mr. Alperin-Sheriff includes a table of this line item for fiscal years 1994-2000. I have also included fiscal year 2001 in my version of the table below. (Note: the years indicated in red are those budgets prepared by the prior Mayor and his Chief of Police)
The Numbers Don't Add Up
Looking at this chart, I want you to remember what former Chief Stambaugh said. It was the policy of the City of Wasilla to pay for rape kits when he was in charge. That is why I say that the numbers simply don't add up. With the exception of FY00, Palin's budgets included more for this line item than her predecessor's budgets. (I'll get to why on that exception in a little bit.) Doing a semi-comparison to the crime statistics available on the City of Wasilla's website, you get this (Note: Semi-comparison because a fiscal year actually starts July of the year prior. Fiscal Year 2000 actually starts July 1, 1999.)
As you can see, sexual assaults (which includes more than just rape) ticked up in the last two year of the previous administration and the first year of Palin's administration. The numbers then remained level at 10 for the years through 2001. (Those numbers do seem a bit odd to me too, but it is the only available information.) Mr. Alperin-Sheriff tries to offer a dubious reason for the increase in funding (since he believes that the victims were paying for the rape kits):
Perhaps Fannon was still using the fund for intermittent DWI blood testing, which had skyrocketed as a result of his decision to shift back bar closing times to 5 a.m. from the 2 a.m. closing time set by former Police Chief Irl Stambaugh.
This reasoning doesn't pass the smell test. Yes, as you can see in the chart above, DWI s do drop in 1995 and 1996 . If, as Mr. Alperin-Sheriff believes, Wasilla had to increase the budget line because of DWI blood tests, why is the actual amount spent in Fiscal Year 2000 only a couple hundred dollars more than Fiscal Year 1994. 1994 saw 8 sexual assaults and 206 DWI s while 2000 had 10 rapes and 181 DWI s. Those are comparable numbers in both statistics and amount of money spent.
I'm sorry Mr. Christopher and Mr. Alperin-Sheriff, the numbers do not support your claims (or even that of the Police Chief for that matter). Until you can actually provide us with physical evidence that rape victims had been charged under the Palin administration for rape kits, this story belongs exactly where it is: the pages of the left leaning blogs. You can stop asking why the media isn't covering it any more than they already have. They found the story wanting for a lack of evidence. Oh, and Tommy, before you go complaining again that the City of Wasilla can't release those records, they have already.
The Story of Fiscal Year 2000
Like many on the left, I found the cut in the budget line for fiscal year 2000 a little odd. That was until I remembered a comment by RedState reader Achance (Achance is a retired state employee who served under multiple Governors. He has also mentioned that he isn't necessarily a fan of Palin.):
Stuff like this wasn't on my plate ever, and I was a classified employee a level or two below policy stuff when this all went down, but I remember the hassle.
In most of Alaska, geographically at least, the State through the Alaska State Troopers handles all law enforcement, so any rape investigations would be solely a State matter. As I recall, the hassle was about whether the State would pay for rape forensics for polisubs that had their own police departments, e.g., Wasilla, Anchorage, Juneau, Fairbanks, Kenai, Nome, Ketchikan, Sitka, and maybe one or two other communities. The only crime lab belongs to the State, though the hospitals in the larger communities could do this work as could the IHS. Of course, the move by the polisubs was to say that if the State wouldn't pay, they'd charge the victim. Well, guess what, the State decided to pay for all of them. Of course, charging the vics was an untenable position. Just politics.
That's right. Wasilla appears to have tried to call the state's bluff and lost. Then Mayor Palin seemed to be playing politics. You can't win them all.
Please join me Friday, October 10, 2008 at 10PM/9CT as I appear on Unusable Signal with Tommy Christopher and Caleb Howe. I will be debating Tommy on this very rape kit story.