Lost In Alaska: The Continuing Saga of Sarah Palin’s Film Tax Incentives

Apr 01 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Yesterday I wrote a story about what I saw as the real issue with Sarah Palin’s availing herself personally of at least a hundred thousand dollars in film tax incentives for her reality TV show (the show got 1.2 million in taxpayer funds), a subject which had made the rounds of conservative media and so irked Palin that she took to her Facebook Page to correct it on March 30, 2011.

Naturally, in order to write the article I wanted to view the exact legislation that was passed by Palin. But when I went to the Alaska Film Office tax incentive and credit page, via a Google search, it took me to a dead 404 page. I tried multiple searches and multiple links to find the files to no avail. In order to find the date the legislation was passed, for example, I ended up having to search news articles from that time period. Luckily, I had the two PDFs from their film office from which to work, as I had previously written about this topic.

At any rate, my article focused on the specific types of projects that were ineligible for a tax credit, as Sarah Palin’s Alaska was noted to be political in nature and was certainly received that way by many, with Ms Palin herself noting in a TV interview that she got in her political statements. Political ads were specifically prohibited from receiving benefit of tax credits, as would make sense when using taxpayer funds. Furthermore, Ms Palin appeared to deny that this legislation benefited her personally, insinuating that if it benefited anyone it was the producer. However, I have been in the TV business for a long time and have worked with state tax film credits and incentives, I am aware that her statement was perhaps disingenuous, given the money paid to her as talent and the probability that a production company would be more inclined to work with her and pay her a higher amount knowing that they would ultimately get 44% (or 1.2 million dollars) back in tax credits.

Today, Dave Worrell from the Alaska Film Office contacted us to let us know that they are undergoing some site upgrades and the film tax credits and incentive files were moved on Wednesday, March 30.

He wrote:

“In Sarah Jones article she states: “Interestingly, when I went to the
Alaska Film Office website, the film incentive pages are gone.
Luckily, I have the PDFs.”

That is factually incorrect. The State of Alaska is undergoing a
website update and the Alaska Film Office website was updated on
Wednesday March 30, 2011. Filenames and locations were changed as part
of that update, but everything is still available on the website:
www.film.Alaska.gov – a good place for her to look would be the
“Public Information” page.”

Here is my response:

Dear Dave,

Thank you for contacting us with your concern. Actually, Dave, my statement wasn’t “factually incorrect”. You can follow the link I provided, which I got from your own website and from Google, and it went to a 404 dead page. I tried multiple ways to get the information and they all took me to a 404 dead page, of which I took screengrabs, one if which is shown here:

In order for my statement to be factually incorrect, I would have had to be able to find the information as any member of the public would find it and that was not possible when I wrote the article, nor is it possible now, two days later. You suggested that I try your main page, which I also did and it took me to a dead link as well. Perhaps you have that remedied today.

I’m unclear as to why the office would need to take down information for two days while upgrading and not provide a redirect link, since this is supposed to be publicly available information. You say it was on the site somewhere, and I’m sure that’s true, but I’m also sure you understand the concept of public disclosure as it pertains to the Alaska Public Records Act.

I could argue that it is not actually considered true public disclosure if someone has to know where you put the files in order to find them. Is the Alaska government in the habit of moving government files and not offering a redirect link or even a statement on the dead link with directions?

It’s been two days now, so perhaps the film office needs to redirect the pages so that the public can have access to them the way they are usually found. When you Google Alaska Film Office tax incentive, it takes you to a 404 dead link currently. It’s now April 1. It takes two seconds to set up a redirect link. We do it here every day.

Ironically, this upgrade occurred on the exact date that the Palin reacted on her Facebook page to the spate of negative criticism in the conservative media about her taking advantage of the film incentives legislation she passed, which as I noted, was exceptionally generous as compared to most other states. As during the 2008 VP campaign, there has been on ongoing pattern of files being moved when Palin-related controversy erupts.

You suggest that the factual question is one of access, but in actuality the question is one of disclosure. If the files are relocated and the public is not redirected to them, the physical existence of the file on the server is irrelevant to the public that is trying to reach them. The fundamental question is not whether the files still existed on the server, but it is why the public couldn’t view the files; this is the distance between access and sunshine/disclosure.

I further look forward to finding out exactly why they needed to move these files and were unable to provide redirect links for the public or even a message notifying the public that the files were not available to the public due to “upgrades”.

While I have your attention, I would like to request the following information:

1) What is the source of the money used to fund the Alaska Film Tax Credits and Incentives.

2) As it pertains to Sarah Palin’s Alaska, to whom were the tax credits and incentives given specifically and in what amounts.

3) How much on average does the Alaska film office pay out in tax credits and tax incentives for talent (limited to mean on-air talent such as hosts, actors/actresses for a nationally broadcast TV show, nationally distributed film and other eligible projects) in a given year, not including Ms Palin’s salary?

4) I would like a list of all of the tax credits and incentives paid to Sarah Palin, and any immediate relative or business related to Sarah Palin over the last three years since the signing of the legislation in 2008, including but not limited to: Sarah Palin, her husband Todd Palin, daughter Bristol Palin, The Alaska Fund Trust, Todd’s Fisheries, Bristol Palin’s company (BSMP LLC.), Pie Spy LLC, Palin and Associates, and James F Palin.

5) What is the total amount spent in tax credits and incentives for eligible projects in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

6) What is the film office’s response to the fact that political ads are ineligible for tax credits and incentives, and yet Sarah Palin’s Alaska was widely received as a political ad (ad as defined by dictionary: a notice or announcement in a public medium promoting a product, service, or event or publicizing a job vacancy). Was there any specific language in the synopsis of the show provided for approval that guaranteed a government office would not be using government money to fund a political message?

Respectfully Yours,

Sarah Jones

P.S. Please note that at 8:43 PM The link still goes to a 404 error. Alaska Film Office has still not managed to offer a redirect link for the public.

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