From TALKING POINTS MEMO:
A congressman-elect from Arizona has hired a retired Wasilla dentist closely tied to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his chief of staff.
Rep.-elect Paul Gosar (R-AZ), himself a dentist, hired Rob Robinson as his top aide, Roll Call reports today. Palin endorsed Gosar after Robinson, a political friend of hers, introduced them.
It’s the second member of the Palin circle to find work with Gosar. The new congressman also hired Thomas Van Flein, the Palin family’s lawyer, as his deputy chief of staff and legislative director.
Palin hired Van Flein in 2008 to defend her in the Trooper-Gate investigation, a scandal revolving around the firing of a state trooper who was embroiled in a family dispute with the Palins. Palin has kept Van Flein on retainer this year, paying him $10,000 a month through her PAC.
From TALKING POINTS MEMO:
Gosar served with Robinson on the American Dental Association’s government affairs council. And Gosar — despite being from a state 2,500 miles away — used his influence at the national organization to help the Alaska group in a legal crusade it fought earlier this decade. According to a glowing endorsement by the ADS [Alaska Dental Society] this summer, Gosar helped draw the ADA’s attention to a fight to stop “dental therapists” from practicing basic dentistry in rural Alaska.
The fight centered around eight federally-licensed dental therapists, who had been trained for two years and practiced in remote villages populated by Alaska Natives. The ADS argued that the therapists needed to be licensed by the state; proponents of the program argued that the therapists were the only way to get basic dental care to the residents of remote places who were often too poor to travel to a city with a licensed dentist. In 2007, a judge ruled that the program could continue.
Van Flein represented the group in the failed lawsuit. The group’s then-president, David Eichler, drew fire during the court battle when he suggested on an online message board that Native tribes had poor dental health due to ignorance and deserved to die out, statements other members of the ADS, and the ADA, condemned. He later apologized.
Like Van Flein, Eichler also had a role in Trooper-Gate, the scandal surrounding Palin’s firing of the state’s public safety commissioner. Van Flein was Palin’s lawyer in the ensuing investigation. Eichler was one of five Alaska residents — represented by former Senate candidate Joe Miller — who sued the Trooper-Gate investigator in Sept. 2008, saying the probe was a waste of taxpayer money. Eichler and the other plaintiffs dropped the case within a month, once it became apparent they wouldn’t win.
Van Flein, in his work for the ADS, also wrote an amicus brief for the group in the 2007 appeal of an Alaskan dentist who had been convicted of getting patients hooked on prescription drugs and then manipulating them into having sex with him to get more drugs. The ADS filed the brief in favor of the dentist, Stephen Grandstaff, arguing that the trial court should not have admitted statements Grandstaff made during a peer-reviewed investigation. The ADS argued that anything in peer review is confidential; the court ruled that confidentiality didn’t apply to criminal cases. Grandstaff is serving a 19-year sentence.