Governor Palin Designed Tax Credit Paying For Bristol’s Reality Show

I’ve often compared the Palin family to the redneck version of the Kardashian family. Both families share some key traits: non-stop drama, craving for constant attention, and most importantly, they’ll do anything for a buck.

Sarah Palin left her post of governor when it became profitable for her to do so, halfway through her term. Since then, she’s written books, made regular appearances on TV as a political pundit, and became the hottest grandma to ever get paid for killing a moose on live television in Sarah Palin’s Alaska. With all of this fabulous stuff going on, why would anyone stay in a low-paying, high-stress job as a governor elected in good faith by the people of Alaska?

She has set a stellar example for her daughter, Bristol. After failing the teen “abstinence education” practice that her mother espouses, Bristol gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, Tripp. Unlike the young mothers in the Teen Moms TV show that was ridiculed by her mother , Bristol had abundant resources. She could have pursued an education and raised her child with dignity.

Well, why in the world would she do that? What am I thinking?

Like her mother, she took an easier and much more profitable way out. A “career” in reality TV. She played a large role in her mother’s documentary Sarah Palin’s Alaska, famously appeared on Dancing with the Stars, and has enjoyed multiple television appearances that include The View, The Daily Show, and Live with Kelly.

In Bristol’s words, God “provides opportunities”, and she implies that not taking advantage of the Lord’s opportunities would somehow be in disobedience to Him. And, anyhow, as she said “the press is going to talk about me no matter what,” so she might as well “have fun”. She’s returning to Dancing with the Stars. Not for attention or money, she told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour, but because it was what she felt the Lord wanted her to do. It’s a God thing, you know.

But the rest of Bristol Palin’s fabulous career isn’t what people are talking about this week. We are talking about, believe it or not, her short-lived and wildly unsuccessful reality show, Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp.

Helping Hands LLC, the company that produced Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp, received a$354,348 subsidy from the state. Total “Alaska expenses” have been reported as $995,275, but this is misleading and potentially fraudulent because it includes money paid to people who don’t live in Alaska in addition to Alaskan citizens.

This “tax credit”, or subsidy, comes from Alaska Statutes 44.33.233 (AS 44.33.233), designed to promote film-making in Alaska. Fairbanks Daily News-Miner writer Dermor Cole writes “Calling it a “tax credit” is a misnomer since the recipients pay no taxes. The subsidy is equivalent to a cash payment from the general fund.”

Many states have similar statutes in place to entice movie producers to make movies in their states. The idea behind this, of course, is job creation, revenue, and most importantly, the expansion and development of film production industries in the states. Much of Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp was filmed in California, which is also an issue, but that’s not the big story here.

In a story broken by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, the production company, Helping Hands LLC, reported spending $995,275 in Alaska. $508,000 of that spending went to on-camera “talent” for the show. The main “talent” of course  was Bristol Palin and five other Alaska residents (widely believed to be members of her family). The document from the Alaska Film Office says that the Helping Hands LLC paid $475,598  for “above the line” cast, which includes stars, directors, producers, and other key figures. Salaries paid to “others” were only $32,400 total. Alaskans weren’t hired as crew.

The subsidy base is 30 percent of the “total Alaska expenses” of $995,275. The production of Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp qualified for a seasonal subsidy, in addition to the base, of $4,964 because $248,206 was spent in Alaska between Oct. 1st and March 30th, reported Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Wages paid to Alaskans (the “talent”), a sum of $508,000, the subsidy calculation includes a 10 percent “Alaska hire credit” worth $50,800 in addition to the 30 percent base subsidy. Wow, things are really adding up, aren’t they?

Clearly, the investment via “tax credit” in this particular film production did not come close to meeting AS 44.33.233‘s purpose, which is to to expand and develop Alaska’s film production industries.

But wait a minute. Who, or what, is Helping Hands LLC? Here is where it gets really interesting.

Let me introduce researcher, attorney, and author Malia Litman, author of Rebuttal to the Rogue and a former Senior Trial Partner with a large Dallas law firm. According to Litman’s research, Helping Hands LLC is “a legal entity organized by the attorney for Sarah Palin. It is NOT a charitable organization. That legal entity applied for a tax credit, and although approved, the amount of money to be paid to Helping Hands has not been disclosed.”

Does all of this seem just a little “loose”? I mean, how can we prove what Ms. Litman is saying is true. Well, all we can do is look at the evidence.

The application for the film tax credit was filed by Monique Renner, an attorney for John Tiemessen, the attorney on retainer for the SarahPAC.

Because Helping Hands is a Limited Liability Company, the corporation is not taxed, but the individuals employed by the company are taxed directly for any amounts they receive through Helping Hands. Thus if Bristol was paid $1,000,000.00 for making Life’s a Tripp, she would be required to pay tax on that income, but Helping Hands would not be required to first pay tax on the corporate income. If Sarah Palin was an employee of Helping Hands, she could be paid any amounts agreed upon, but have limited risk of legal liability. While it is theoretically possible to pierce the corporate veil, it virtually never happens. Thus if Bristol and Sarah were employed by Helping Hands, and were paid a salary for their appearances in the filming, it is of no consequence to them if the show is profitable or not. They were probably paid at the time of filming, not at the time the show was aired. Thus the people of Alaska have once again subsidized the making of a reality show by a member of the Palin family. 

And in regards to that “not so big” issue of AS 44.33.233 requiring projects must be filmed in the state in order to qualify for the tax credit, Ms. Litman points out:

Moreover the film was clearly made, at least in part, in California. The film tax law was designed to promote film making in Alaska. The film office was charged with administration of the film production incentive program for “film production expenditures incurred in the state.

Now I hate to bore my readers with all of this jibberish about legal codes, and laws, and statues, and etc…but let’s talk about AS 44.33.233 one more time. When was it signed, and by who?

I’m a technical writer, not a creative writer, so I’ve probably not done well with “keeping the suspense going”. You’ve probably already guessed it: Sarah Palin signed AS 44.33.233 into law just before leaving her “day job” (aka the Office of Governor of Alaska) in 2009. Then, she went on to greener pastures that included TV appearances, book writing, and…a few reality TV shows aka films.


Malia Litman:

“The Palins have now financially benefited from the law enacted during the short time Sarah Palin was Governor on four separate occasions; Sarah Palin’s Alaska, Big Hair, Life’s a Tripp, and Stars Earn Stripes.”

And that’s how you connect the dots. Ms. Litman outlines in detail on her blog, in both legal language and laymen’s terms, the trail of evidence that exposes the corruption I’ve detailed here, and to the same issue that arose from Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

As stated by Malia Litman, “The tax credit approved has nothing to do with the ultimate success of the show, so Alaskans are subsidizing the Palins regardless of whether their reality show is popular or not.”

I’m in a position now where I have to eat crow. All of these years, I’ve been calling Sarah Palin a complete idiot. I was wrong. Oh, she’s definitely an idiot. But not a complete idiot. She was at least smart enough to hire some really good lawyers. Those of us who have a fondness for justice can only hope that she sees her day in court at some point in her life. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.


To follow topics I talk about,  follow me on Twitter, subscribe to my public updates on Facebook, or connect with me via LinkedIn.