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Governor's office reviewing trips made by annual gift giver Claus - Parody by Scott Lazar
Monday, December 12 2005 @ 05:32 PM EST

North Pole (UPA). The governor's office is reported to be looking into allegations of unauthorized, globe-circling trips taken by the Commonwealth's chief gift-giving manager S. Claus. The investigation was prompted by questions asked by news site Groklaw after reviewing Mr. Claus's forms filed with the Administration and Finance Department and comparing them to flight plans filed at Svalbard Airport, the world's northernmost airport with regularly scheduled jet service, located in Longyearbyen, Norway, which revealed flights, possibly unauthorized, being scheduled annually for the late evening hours of December 24th, dating back to the opening of the airport in 1975 and quite possibly before. No matching forms could be found filed by Mr. Claus with the state agency.

It has been widely reported anecdotally since the advent of commercial air-traffic control radar that every year in late December, a small craft purportedly flown by Mr. Claus has appeared on radar worldwide at such diverse locations as Aspen, Colorado in the United States, Helsinki Finland, Toyko, Japan, the UK, the Canary Islands and Australia. What is not known is whether Mr. Claus has ever received authorization for the flights, the transportation of goods across local, national, and international boundaries, landing permission for his aircraft, as well as whether proper authorization paperwork and financial information was ever filed.

In the past Mr. Claus has claimed that his trips were goodwill visits and were entirely self-financed. However, Groklaw has learned from anonymous sources that Claus has received gifts on these trips, including milk and cookies, and the investigation will seek to determine whether any improper influence was involved. Additionally, there are questions about whether proper prior permission was sought to leap down Commonwealth chimneys. Speculation abounds that Mr. Claus may be charged with multiple counts of breaking and entering.

Mr. Claus said, in an email interview, that he was told by his supervisor he didn't need to fill out any paperwork, that his supervisor had verbally authorized his flight plans, and that he's done no harm to any homes accessed. Attempts were made to reach Mr. Claus's supervisor, but he did not return phone messages.

Claus is much in demand for personal appearances, but when questioned by Groklaw as to how he justified personal appearance visits with the fact that no one has ever been able to verify having seen him, Claus said, "I believe my record speaks for itself. I'm a little busy this month. Could you ping me again next month, please? Honestly, though, I'm just trying to be helpful to the Commonwealth."

When contacting airports around the world, Groklaw found few willing to comment. However, ominously, Ushuaia, Argentina airport spokesman Teniero DeSalle told Groklaw that he had no information regarding any flights or flight plans filed with his airport for any flight originating from the North Pole, whether for late December or any other time period. Mr. Claus is known to have visited Argentina every year since 1976. Mario Lemming, spokesman for JFK, similarly had no information to provide, engendering further suspicion. International Association of Elvish Sleigh Loaders (IAES) president Randall Smallfoot's office issued this statement: "We work to the stipulations as drawn up by our labor agreement. We believe that we have put forth a good faith effort each holiday season. Similarly, we thought that Mr. Claus was well within his job parameters and had the authority to perform these annual trips. I feel sure he will provide sufficient justification for his actions and the investigation will confirm that. Of course, I know nothing about his paperwork. Perhaps he has a problem there."

"The lack of an audit trail is probably the most troubling aspect of this entire gift-giving enterprise," state spokesperson Dee Ann Roamer announced. "We are deeply concerned that certain companies may be exerting unfair influence upon Mr. Claus's decision-making processes. We are mystified how Mr. Claus is consistently able have access to vast supplies of the most sought-after presents, when many in our Commonwealth are not. The paperwork is a vital part of his job, and we are appalled to find huge gaps, going back so many years, in his reporting. Further, many of the places Claus visited are known as tourist attractions, and there are questions to what extent he may have been wined and dined on these trips." Last month, a bill was introduced that would require the Commonwealth to purchase all toys from properly registered proprietary toy stores, based on specifications that many observers believe were drawn up specifically to make it impossible for Claus to visit Commonwealth homes in the future.

Questioned by Groklaw, Ms. Roamer said there was no connection between the investigation and the bill's introduction. However, she added, "I do think there is reason to question why anyone would be giving toys away free. Who paid for them? Most normal people buy their toys at stores, and we are concerned about the implications for the economy if people start giving presents away they obtained somehow for free themselves. That's what raised our suspicions, and we plan to get to the bottom of this."

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