Lawmaker: Was VIP treatment of Palin in national parks appropriate?

Lawmaker: Was VIP treatment of Palin in national parks appropriate?

A Democratic congressman from Oregon is questioning whether it was appropriate for the National Park Service to give special treatment to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin during her recent “One Nation” bus tour to historic sites on the East Coast.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who sits on the House Ways and Means and Budget committees, sent a letter Tuesday to Park Service Director John Jarvis asking for an accounting of whether taxpayer resources were spent to accommodate the Palins.

Describing Palin’s trip as a “partisan political tour” that provided her with “personal and political” benefits, Blumenauer asked whether federal resources “were made available to an extent beyond that which an average American family would receive.”

Palin billed her “One Nation” trip — on a bus festooned with images such as the Liberty Bell and the Constitution — as nothing more than a family vacation complete with kids, grandparents and many hours on Interstate 95.

But there was been nothing typical about this vacation, which attracted endless national attention and ignited widespread speculation about whether the popular conservative is testing the waters for a presidential campaign. The trip, which is expected to resume later this month in the Midwest, is being paid for by the former vice presidential nominee’s political action committee, SarahPAC.

The bus tour has required a good deal of planning and preparation by the historic sites that received her. Although they haven’t asked for it, Palin and her family have received VIP treatment just about everywhere they went: a private guided tour of Mount Vernon, early admission into the National Archives, and private tours at all the federally managed National Park Service properties they visited, including a 10-person escort of national parks employees and New York City police officers at the Statue of Liberty.

The Palins also bypassed long lines and avoided crowded exhibit rooms — and hitched a ride to the Statue of Liberty on a National Park Service boat from New Jersey, avoiding the often hours-long wait for the public boat from lower Manhattan.

Park Service spokesman David Barna said celebrity visits to national parks are extremely common, and they are accommodated as much to protect other tourists from disruption as to provide VIP treatment to stars. Barna said he suspects there was no additional cost to the Palins’ visits to historic properties last week.

“The Palin visit was a very minor issue,” Barna said. “We reached out and contacted her first. They assured us that this was a small family visit, and it was.”

Barna said U.S. Park Police did decide to escort Palin at the Statue of Liberty, but it was not at Palin’s request.

Barna said the agency has not received Blumenauer’s letter yet but will respond to the congressman when it does.

by Amy Gardner

A Democratic congressman from Oregon is questioning whether it was appropriate for the National Park Service to give special treatment to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin during her recent “One Nation” bus tour to historic sites on the East Coast.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who sits on the House Ways and Means and Budget committees, sent a letter Tuesday to Park Service Director John Jarvis asking for an accounting of whether taxpayer resources were spent to accommodate the Palins.

Describing Palin’s trip as a “partisan political tour” that provided her with “personal and political” benefits, Blumenauer asked whether federal resources “were made available to an extent beyond that which an average American family would receive.”

Palin billed her “One Nation” trip — on a bus festooned with images such as the Liberty Bell and the Constitution — as nothing more than a family vacation complete with kids, grandparents and many hours on Interstate 95.

But there was been nothing typical about this vacation, which attracted endless national attention and ignited widespread speculation about whether the popular conservative is testing the waters for a presidential campaign. The trip, which is expected to resume later this month in the Midwest, is being paid for by the former vice presidential nominee’s political action committee, SarahPAC.

The bus tour has required a good deal of planning and preparation by the historic sites that received her. Although they haven’t asked for it, Palin and her family have received VIP treatment just about everywhere they went: a private guided tour of Mount Vernon, early admission into the National Archives, and private tours at all the federally managed National Park Service properties they visited, including a 10-person escort of national parks employees and New York City police officers at the Statue of Liberty.

The Palins also bypassed long lines and avoided crowded exhibit rooms — and hitched a ride to the Statue of Liberty on a National Park Service boat from New Jersey, avoiding the often hours-long wait for the public boat from lower Manhattan.

Park Service spokesman David Barna said celebrity visits to national parks are extremely common, and they are accommodated as much to protect other tourists from disruption as to provide VIP treatment to stars. Barna said he suspects there was no additional cost to the Palins’ visits to historic properties last week.

“The Palin visit was a very minor issue,” Barna said. “We reached out and contacted her first. They assured us that this was a small family visit, and it was. .”

Barna said the U.S. Park Police did decide to escort Palin at the Statue of Liberty, but it was not a Palin’s request.

Barna said the agency has not received Blumenauer’s letter yet but will respond to the congressman when it does.

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