JUNEAU — New state gift disclosures show it cost Liberty Legal Institute and the two law firms working with it $185,000 to represent six Alaska legislators in an unsuccessful lawsuit to halt their colleagues' "troopergate" investigation into whether Gov. Sarah Palin acted improperly in firing the state's public safety director.
The legislators listed a $25,000 gift of services from the Texas-based Liberty Legal Institute. Liberty is the legal arm of the Free Market Foundation, which is associated with evangelical leader James Dobson's Focus on the Family, and lists its guiding principles as limited government and promotion of Judeo-Christian values.
The lawmakers also disclosed a $120,000 gift of services from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, a national firm that appeared at hearings on behalf of Liberty Legal.
Anchorage attorney Kevin Clarkson represented the six legislators in the case as well, and turned to Liberty Legal for its constitutional expertise. The lawmakers reported a $40,000 gift of services from Clarkson's firm.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
That brings the total bill for their lawsuit to $185,000.
The attorneys had hoped to recoup legal fees in a victory. But the suit was dismissed last fall.
The six legislators who filed the suit are Wes Keller, Mike Kelly, Fred Dyson, Tom Wagoner, Carl Gatto and Bob Lynn. All are Republicans.
Gatto said the legislators didn't have anything to do with the amount spent on the suit.
"I said so, who is paying who to do this? And they said they were volunteering, the attorneys were volunteering. Then I discovered I had to report it as gifts. So I did," the Palmer Republican said.
Gatto said he has no regrets about his involvement.
"If you feel like there is an injustice being done you have a right to file a lawsuit," he said.
Peter Maassen, the lawyer who defended the Legislative Council against that lawsuit and two others seeking to stop the "troopergate" investigation, was surprised his foes listed $185,000 as their costs in the court action.
"Wow," he said.
Maassen said the legislature paid him $29,845 for defending against the three lawsuits.