VANCOUVER - Several Vancouver-based mining companies are downplaying a report they had given gifts to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband.
The Washington Post newspaper reported this week that Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate who pushed through her state's ethics reform bill aimed at corrupt "old-boy" politics, had accepted $25,367 in gifts, including from companies with Alaska mining interests.
"I read the Washington Post stories on Gov. Palin and we did check into our role and determined that there was no money contributed to her campaign at any level, nor have we provided gifts to the governor," said Sean Magee, the vice-president of public affairs at Vancouver-based Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd.
"We were quite frankly flummoxed by any reference of us making donations to her," said Magee. "We're a Canadian company and there are strict rules in the U.S. about political contributions."
Northern Dynasty owns the Pebble Mine copper and gold deposit in southwestern Alaska in a 50-50 share with the Anglo-American consortium and a separate corporate entity has been created in Alaska to develop the Pebble site.
"We did, however, purchase a table at the governor's inaugural celebration, because it was a state celebration."
A spokesman for Vancouver-based NovaGold Resources Inc. said that its contribution was limited to allowing Todd Palin to fly in to the Donlin Creek gold minesite with government officials. The Alaska mine is under development with Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp.
"The only way you get in to the mine is by flying," said Greg Johnson, the NovaGold spokesman.
"I gather Todd Palin has a strong interest in rural and Native American employment and development," said Johnson, who said that Palin "has also paid for some trips out of his own pocket."
Johnson said Palin "is part Native American I know," but said Palin's only role "was as the governor's husband." Johnson added that "native politics, business and community interests are all intermingled in Alaska."
Teck Cominco spokesman Doug Horswill, whose Vancouver-based company is developing the Red Dog mine, said that his company's contribution was also limited to free flights for Todd Palin.
"I don't know in exactly what capacity Gov. Palin's husband Todd was acting, but we took him along on a flight to the mine, which we do when we have empty seats on a plane," said Horswill.
Todd Palin, whose mother is a quarter Yup'ik, is a union member who worked in the North Slope oil fields of Alaska for 18 years and also works as a commercial salmon fisherman at Bristol Bay, close to the site of the proposed Pebble mine.
The Washington Post newspaper is reporting mining interests contributed heavily to Palin since she became governor three years ago and among those said to have provided benefits are three Vancouver-based companies.
It's alleged that Palin personally accepted gifts totalling $25,367 from mining interests, including a $2,200 ivory puffin mask from Matthew Nicolai, president of an American native-owned for-profit corporation called Calista that owns land on which mining companies want to do business.
Mining and environmental interests together spent $10 million fighting a ballot initiative which sought to tighten up discharge by mines into Alaskan waters, primarily by the future Pebble mine into Bristol Bay.
After Gov. Palin said she was going to "take my governor's hat off" and come out against the ballot measure, it was defeated at the ballot box. Palin's pitch on behalf of mining interests was heavily used in publicity ads.

Vancouver Province 2008