Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

Former Gov. Sarah Palin’s lawsuit against the New York Times could ultimately cost $5 million.

So who is paying her legal bills and why?

In February, Palin lost her five-year-old defamation case, but her Florida attorneys are just getting started. They are seeking a new trial and have moved to appeal to the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

The Palin lawyers are on a trajectory that could end at the U.S. Supreme Court, where Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch are already on record suggesting that the court needs to weaken First Amendment rights.

Now that she is a candidate for the only U.S. House seat from Alaska, Palin should be more forthcoming about who she is beholden to in this matter.

It is impossible to believe that Palin has the personal appetite or energy to pursue the case using her own money. Just as it is impossible to believe that an error by the Times, which was quickly corrected, did the grave and lasting damage to Palin that her attorneys claimed in court.

In 2008, when Rep. Don Young refused to say why he had spent more than $1 million on attorney fees, Palin called on Young to explain what the money was for. At the time, Young was under federal investigation and said it was not the public’s business how he spent campaign funds.

”Personally, I would like to see more information not less,” Palin said at the time.

One of the main reasons to believe that Palin isn’t using her own money in the Times case is that the lawyers hired for her lawsuit are the same guys who helped get a $115 million verdict against Gawker on behalf of former wrestler Hulk Hogan, a decision that put the website out of business.

Only after that lawsuit did the public learn that Hogan’s estimated $10 million in legal bills had been secretly paid by billionaire Peter Thiel, a co-founder of PayPal, an early investor in Facebook and an ally of former President Donald Trump.

Thiel’s lawyer was Charles Harder, who sat in the courtroom in Palin’s case taking detailed notes. Harder was not working with Palin’s attorneys—Shane Vogt and Kenneth Turkel—but he did work with them on the case that put Gawker out of business.

Harder, who has also worked for Trump on defamation suits, wrote after the Gawker case that institutions should “Think twice before you invade someone’s privacy or violate their rights.”

Reporter Seth Stevenson, writing in Slate about the Palin case, said he asked many questions of Harder during breaks in the trial. Harder said the case had probably cost Palin’s side $1 million so far, and a trip to the Supreme Court could push that to $5 million.

“When it comes to this trial, I just can’t bring myself to believe that Palin paid for it out of pocket. If indeed she didn’t, and someone else was funding this, I wondered where that money was coming from. I asked Harder if he knew. He said he didn’t,” Stevenson wrote.

Writing in Politico, Jack Shafer, said, “Substitute gym teachers put more industry in their work than Palin did in her testimony. What gives in a case that may have already cost Palin’s side up to $2 million in legal fees?”

“Libel suits are always big news, but the identity of their financiers could turn out to be the bigger story,” Shafer said.

The Daily Mail said Palin’s attorneys did not respond to a question about who is paying her bills.

Stevenson, who provided some of the best coverage of the Palin trial, wrote that Harder told him he attended the Palin trial to “observe and learn.”

“That was the most chilling thing I heard in that courtroom,” Stevenson wrote. “What exactly did he learn from Sarah Palin’s (so far) failed effort to sink the Times? How exactly is he planning to apply those lessons? My fear is that, before long, we’ll all find out.”

Alaskans need to know who is paying Palin’s legal bills for this lawsuit and why.

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