Archive for Friday, October 10, 2008

Alaska inquiry finds Palin abused power

Governor let personal grudge influence firing of public safety commissioner

October 10, 2008


— Sarah Palin unlawfully abused her power as governor by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired as a state police officer, the chief investigator of an Alaska legislative panel concluded Friday. The politically charged inquiry imperiled the Republican vice presidential candidate's reputation as a reformer on John McCain's ticket.

Investigator Stephen Branchflower, in a report to a bipartisan panel that looked into the matter, found Palin in violation of a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain.

The inquiry looked into her dismissal of Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan, who said he lost his job because he resisted pressure to fire a state police officer involved in a bitter divorce and custody battle with the governor's sister. Palin says Monegan was fired as part of a legitimate budget dispute.

Monegan's firing was lawful, the report found, but Palin let the family grudge influence her decision-making - even if it was not the sole reason Monegan was dismissed.

"I feel vindicated," Monegan said. "It sounds like they've validated my belief and opinions."

Branchflower said Palin violated a statute of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. Lawmakers don't have the authority to sanction her for such a violation, and they gave no indication they would take any action against her.

Under Alaska law, it is up to the state's Personnel Board - which is conducting its own investigation into the matter - to decide whether Palin violated state law and, if so, must refer it to the Senate president for disciplinary action. Violations also carry a possible fine of up to $5,000.

Palin attorney Thomas Van Flein disagreed with Branchflower's conclusions. "In order to violate the ethics law, there has to be some personal gain, usually financial. Mr. Branchflower has failed to identify any financial gain," he said.

Palin and McCain's supporters had hoped the inquiry's finding would be delayed until after the presidential election to spare her any embarrassment and to put aside an enduring distraction as she campaigns as McCain's running mate in an uphill contest against Democrat Barack Obama.

After a court fight to block the report failed, the panel of lawmakers voted to release it - though not without dissension. The panel did not vote on whether to endorse its findings.

"I think there are some problems in this report," said Republican state Sen. Gary Stevens, a member of the panel. "I would encourage people to be very cautious, to look at this with a jaundiced eye."

McCain campaign spokesman Meg Stapleton said the "Legislative Council seriously overreached, making a tortured argument to find fault without basis in law or fact."

The state paid Branchflower, a retired state prosecutor, $100,000 to prepare the nearly 300-page report. He interviewed or accepted affidavits from about two dozen people in the eight-week investigation.

The Legislature could vote next year to censure Palin, but committee members appeared divided over the report and Democratic state Sen. Kim Elton, the committee's chairman, gave no indication that would happen.

Stapleton also dismissed the report as "a partisan-led inquiry run by Obama supporters." The inquiry has been dogged by such criticism since Democrat Hollis French, who oversaw the investigation, predicted an "October surprise" for the McCain campaign.

Elton rejected the accusation of partisanship.

"When we began investigating this, we had no idea that Sarah Palin would be a part of the national ticket," said Elton, an Obama supporter.

The report notes a few instances in which Palin pressed the case against trooper Mike Wooten, but it was her husband, Todd, who led the charge. Todd Palin had extraordinary access to the governor's office and her closest advisers and he used that access to try to get Wooten fired.

Wooten had been in trouble before Palin became governor over allegations that he illegally shot a moose, drank beer in a patrol car and used a Taser on his stepson. The Palins said they feared for their family's safety after Wooten made threats against them.

In proceedings revealed by the report, former Alaska State Trooper Col. Julia Grimes told investigators that Sarah Palin called her in late 2005 to discuss why Wooten hadn't been fired, and Grimes told her the inquiry was confidential by law.

"Her questions were how can a trooper who behaves this way still be working," Grimes said. "I asked her to please trust me, that because I can't tell her details I would ask her to please trust me that I would take the appropriate action if and when I knew what the findings were. ... I couldn't have another conversation with her about it because, again, it's protected by law."

Grimes said Todd Palin also contacted her by telephone in late 2005 to discuss the confidential investigation of Wooten.

Wooten's disciplinary case was settled in September 2006 - months before Palin was elected governor - and he was allowed to continue working.

After Palin's election, her new public safety commissioner, Monegan, said he was summoned to the governor's office to meet Todd Palin, who said Wooten's punishment had been merely a "slap on the wrist." Monegan said he understood the Palins wanted Wooten fired. "I had this kind of ominous feeling that I may not be long for this job if I didn't somehow respond accordingly," Monegan told the investigator.

For months afterward, Todd Palin filed complaints about Wooten, saying he was seen riding a snowmobile after he had filed a worker's compensation claim and was seen dropping off his children at school in his patrol car.

Monegan said Wooten's doctor had authorized the snowmobile trip and his supervisor had approved his use of the patrol car. Monegan said Alaska's attorney general later called him to inquire about Wooten, and Monegan told him they shouldn't be discussing the subject.

"This was an issue that apparently wasn't going to go away, that there were certainly frustrations," Monegan said. "To say that (Sarah Palin) was focused on this I think would be accurate."


Associated Press writer Adam Goldman contributed to this report.


aha 9 years, 6 months ago

ahahahaha hahaha!!!!stick a doggone fork in 'em. nice choice there mccain! :-)

myvotecounts 9 years, 6 months ago

"Wooten had been in trouble before Palin became governor over allegations that he illegally shot a moose, drank beer in a patrol car and used a Taser on his stepson. The Palins said they feared for their family's safety after Wooten made threats against them."How come it took the Governor to get this thug off the police force? The state employee system protected this dangerous man, until Governor Palin stepped up and did what needed to be done. If this trooper would have done these things in Lawrence, this message board would be going crazy with calls for his dismissal and prosecution, and rightfully so.

Bubarubu 9 years, 6 months ago

LiberalDude: "Palin will remain popular among Republicans and be a power player for years. I really disagree"Whether she'll remain popular, I don't know, but she will remain significant. GWB will become toxic as soon as Obama's inaugurated. Over time, he'll become a quiet, behind-the-scenes figure, similar to the way Nixon spent his time. Cheney wasn't terribly active during the Clinton years and I think he'll go back to that during the Obama years. McCain has too much history with the GOP to be popular, and losing this race will just make it that much harder. For national figures, that pretty much leaves Palin. It's being cast as playing to the base, but her newfound focus on abortion should be seen as a sign that the McCain campaign is over and they're letting her set herself up for whatever comes next. After she's done as AK governor (she'll get re-elected if she runs), look for her to become GOP chair and then Sec. of Energy under the next GOP president.

LiberalDude 9 years, 6 months ago

"Sarah Palin unlawfully abused her power as governor"It's official, this is the worst VP selection of all time!

Scott Drummond 9 years, 6 months ago

"I've asked this before, Palin really scares you Libs! Why?You all are obviously terrified by be celebrating such a lame story."Eight years of an intellectually lazy, dishonest and unethical george w. bush has demonstrated how dangerous such people can be for the well being of the country and its citizens. Given the opportunity to avoid making the mistake of entrusting such an unworthy person in high public office, the American people have recoiled at the prospect of Ms. Palin in office. Liberal and Progressive people, in general, tend to be smarter than Conservatives, so naturally they recognized and reacted to Palin more quickly and in a stronger manner.

Bubarubu 9 years, 6 months ago

Obama just got the endorsement of Wm. F Buckley's kid who cited McCain's pick of Palin as one (of many) reasons why. It's over. Obama will win with a 6-8 point margin nationwide with 330-340 in the electoral college. On Nov. 4, hope wins and on Jan. 20, hope is inaugurated, looking at 58-60 Senate Democrats. After 14 years controlling at least one end of the Capitol and/or the White House, the jig is up. Hopefully this marks the return of principled, honest Republican politics and we can have an actual debate about what policy choices are what's best for the country, rather than who is allowed to sleep with whom, how many allies we don't need in the world, and how ineffective a bloated government can be.

sdinges 9 years, 6 months ago

I hope that McCain loses by a landslide, and that conservative voters send the Republican party a message that it's gone in the wrong direction. Maybe in eight years, we can hope for better from them.That said, I also hope that the Democrats don't get a vast majority - I think that Bush has demonstrated finely how badly a "rubber stamp" congress can go. The current Democratic congress has not impressed thus far, and I seriously doubt they could manage to control themselves with a blank check.

Mike Blur 9 years, 6 months ago

My VP candidate can beat up your VP candidate!

Mixolydian 9 years, 6 months ago

Yep, I did read it, I'm an early riser. They were skimpy little pages. Anyone can get through it in an our and a half easy. Boring report, great game. Here's the most telling quote that the investigator stated to back his conclusion:"engaged in "official action" by her inaction."That's the October surprise that the initiater of this investigation promised?On Sarah Palin beating up Hollis French in the 2nd grade...that's called humor. I amuse myself at least.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 6 months ago

"My VP candidate can beat up your VP candidate!"I wonder if the Republican tradition of their VP's blasting their hunting companions would be affected by the use of a moose gun instead of a shotgun with birdshot.

Bubarubu 9 years, 6 months ago

Have Democrats had four consecutive presidential terms since FDR-Truman? Of course not. For that matter, Republicans haven't had four straight terms since McKinley-TR-Taft. I mean, as a matter of partisan hyperbole, whatever. As an actual prediction? Real name and contact info and I'll be more than willing to take that action.

Jim Phillips 9 years, 6 months ago

myvote-- The difference is in Alaska, he is a tool used to discredit Gov. Palen, which is good for the left side.. In Lawrence, he would be a tool used to discredit Chief Olin, which is good for the left side. "Spin it to Win it!"

Bob Forer 9 years, 6 months ago

"Where are all the McCain supporters defending their "team of mavericks"?"You betcha! Good point. Ohhhhhh, Ma---av---ar---rriicks, come out and plaaaa.....ay. Ohhhhhh, Ma---av---ar---rriicks, come out and plaaaa.....ay.

Jim Phillips 9 years, 6 months ago

bea--If Palin was a Liberal, I'd bet y'all would love her. Your argument makes sense as long as you are content with always being considered second class by your elitist leaders. We divorced ourselves from that mentality around 1776. Your arguments against her are my arguments for her. She represents the Conservative base that McCain does not. She is a strong and independent woman, who is not Hillary, that can make a decision when needed. I would think that, as a Liberal, you would support that.

budwhysir 9 years, 6 months ago

Bring out the mats, we have another match, not sure I care, not sure I will pay to read about it, not sure its a good use of ink,should be a law about writing political articles about political people in a world that is driven by political issues

Scott Drummond 9 years, 6 months ago

george w. bush spent 8 years abusing his office. Warrantless wiretaps are currently being used to spy on us. The republican VP candidate abused her power. On and on it goes. November 4 cannot come soon enough for me.

Bob Forer 9 years, 6 months ago

RougeThrill wrote: It's officially overWrong. Officially, its over. :):):):)

beatrice 9 years, 6 months ago

guardian: "I've asked this before, Palin really scares you Libs! Why?"Fair question, and as a "lib" I'll tell you why she scares me: Because she might become vice president! I think many people would rather Tina Fey be vp before Palin. While Obama does not have a boatload of experience as the head of the ticket for the Democrats, I think you can recognize that he is extremely intelligent and has spent most of his adult life, including his schooling, working toward a life in public political service. Palin certainly hasn't. After her communications degree, she was a mayor of a very small town and won the governorship in a political upheaval in a state with a smaller population than 15 American cities. She simply has not acquired the skill set to oversee a major populace such as a country should something happen to her 72 year old running mate whose father died of a heart attack at age 61. Palin is in no way qualified, and when she is questioned she appears to not have the intellectual capacity to even learn the job if she needed to. This is why she found it necessary to bully her way to get things done, because finesse isn't in her toolbox. Despite her shortcomings, there appears to be absolutely nothing humble about her. She can make a decision "without blinking." Honestly, we have seen where that kind of absoluteness has led us with Bush. We simply don't need someone in such a high office who is so absolutely positive of her own decisions. When you add all this to her extreme right-wing religious views, it all adds up to make for a scary politician. Not a bad person, mind you -- mother, wife, business owner -- but a scary politician. It is the politician Palin who scares us. What further terrifies us liberals is that so many Republicans believe she is okay simply because she "is one of us." Well, I'm sorry, but I know "us," and "we" aren't up to the task. We need somebody better than us. I want somebody who seems like a true elite among us, just as I would want an elite member of the Navy Seals to lead an attack in a war situation. Fortunately for America, this recent news about Palin came out now rather than after she and McCain are elected. That truly does not seem possible at this point. While I'm glad the truth on this has come out, probably the happiest person in America right now is that kid named Levi, who may not have to go through the shotgun wedding after all. Time to put the self-branded mavericks (a wonderful oxymoron if ever there was one) out to pasture.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 6 months ago

"A poor little mousy kid with that name probably got beat up by girls like Sarah Palin."That says more about Palin than it does French, but it's probably the most accurate statement in your whole post.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 6 months ago

Hear that thin whine in the distance... spin machine... full-tilt....Auntie Em! Auntie Em!

Jim Phillips 9 years, 6 months ago

"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated!"

mommie2boogie 9 years, 6 months ago

So this is what "mavericks" do.....hmmmmmmm

Mixolydian 9 years, 6 months ago

What the report states as true, which was true before the report, was that Palin could fire Monegan for any reason or no reason. Like all cabinet heads, he serves at the pleasure of the governor. To begin, this was initiated and controlled by Alaska state Senator Hollis French, who handpicked the investigator and guided the investigation, the same man who said in an ABC news report that the McCain campaign is trying to stop HIM from releasing HIS report before the election, the same man who stated that this investigation would result in an "October surprise" for Palin. The same man on the official Barack Obama website in front of a phalnx of Obama signs. See it here (French is 5th from the left): read Palin's release of her side of the story yesterday and I read the 263 page report this morning and I'm not clearly seeing the violation of the cited ethics law. There has yet to be a neutral review and finding by a judicial tribune or administrative law judge on the facts, this is merely a report open to interpretation.After tasering his son, after getting pulled over in a trooper vehicle with a beer and alcohol odor but no breathalyzer test performed by his fellow officers, and after violating fish and game laws, Wooten only got a 5 day suspension. Good lord, there'd be riots on Mass street if that happened here. I'd fire Monegan's a** too for letting that type of good old boy thin blue line cronyism exist. I suspect the real origins of this fued date back to 1976 and the second grade for little Hollis French. A poor little mousy kid with that name probably got beat up by girls like Sarah Palin.

Bubarubu 9 years, 6 months ago

@Guardian: "being considered second class by your elitist leaders"This canard about "elitism" is old news, but I think I finally got it figured out. Either "elite" (those who have achieved superior goals) has become confused with "elitism" (a class of people is set apart, their class indicating their moral value) or achievement itself has been devalued by the Republican Party. Obama went to Columbia and Harvard Law, and somehow that disqualifies him from public office? We shouldn't encourage kids to work hard and get into Columbia and Harvard Law (and Yale, Dartmouth, Northwestern, etc., etc.)? The Republican strategy is to turn any achievement (except financial) into a liability. Went to a good college? Elitist. Spent a lifetime in public/government service? Insider.Functionally, the Republican treatment of achievement is either a defense mechanism against their own lack of achievement or a cynical excuse to preemptively disrespect their opponents. If my choice is between the elitism of Barack Obama and the petty, uninspiring race to the middle of Sarah Palin, the choice couldn't be easier.

storm 9 years, 6 months ago

She was too mavericky. Mavericks are usually terrorists, anyway.

LiberalDude 9 years, 6 months ago

I've heard Republicans say that even if McCain/Palin lose (which they will), that Palin will remain popular among Republicans and be a power player for years. I really disagree. Like someone said above, I think people are really starting to see what she is all about during this campaign. I think that she'll be lucky to be reelected governor of Alaska.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 6 months ago

Guardian: "[Palin] is a strong and independent woman, who is not Hillary, that can make a decision when needed." Palin is a headstrong and self-serving politician who exhibits questionable decision-making ability. And you're absolutely right about her NOT being Hillary.

Frank Smith 9 years, 6 months ago

Palin's lawyer is spinning the report. Her spokesperson spins everything, beyond recognition.The statute refers to personal OR financial gain. If it was meant to focus exclusively on financial gain, it would have so stated. In fact it recognized that there can be "gain" without money involved.The trooper did illegally shoot a moose. He was with Sarah's sister and used her tag (license) to do it. The family took the moose to Sarah's dad's garage and butchered it. Sarah was eating it all winter. Not until years later did she complain. Sounds to me as if she was part of a conspiracy.The State Personnel Board won't do anything because Sarah appoints two of its three members. Do the math.The legislative council, 8 Republicans and 4 Democrats, voted UNANIMOUSLY to release the report. Not a heck of a lot of dissent there, actually.The trooper did act like a knucklehead. He was disciplined for it.After being repeatedly begged by the stepson who wanted to see what the Taser felt like, the trooper put it on "test," the lowest setting and attached it with clips. The 11-year-old was lying on pillows on the living room floor and his mom was right there. After he got a small shock he asked for more. The trooper drank a beer at a friend's house and opened a second can which he took in his patrol car. He was a large man and it would have taken about six beers to exceed the limit for driving, but the Palin/Heath family has played this for all it was worth, as if he was falling down drunk. It was hyperbole. They're used to lying about everything as Sarah's disgraceful performances since her selection should tell anyone who's paying attention.Here's what's missing from the story. Ten top level officials of the Palin administration were subpoenaed as witnesses but refused to appear, as did the governor, who reneged on her promise to cooperate. Because of this, the investigator wrote, his investigation was "incomplete." Had he had access to the stonewalling witnesses, the report would likely have been much more damning.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 6 months ago

Palin... "engaged in "official action" by her inaction."The epitome of Republican leadership.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 6 months ago

What...? Tom not made it here yet? Hmm... let's play catch up...Tom: "I want a Sarah Palin type that kicks ass and takes names. Got it?!"Ah, Sarah Palin, the amazing self-kicking ass. Did anyone get her name?

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 9 years, 6 months ago

"... her reputation as a reformer on John McCain's Republican ticket."I think we can trim that to... former.( Hey, Tom, sheeeeee's available! )

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 6 months ago

" the petty, uninspiring race to the middle of Sarah Palin,"I think your being overly generous. Otherwise, great post.

beatrice 9 years, 6 months ago

So mixo, you had time to go to the football game AND read the report on Palin this morning. Yep, we believe that. Palin abused her powers, and now the state of Alaska will likely get sued. I just wonder if she will get re-elected as governor when the time comes, now that the people of Alaska really know what is up.

beatrice 9 years, 6 months ago

Maybe she will explain herself on Meet the Press tomorrow. (hey mixo, this too is called humor.)

Jim Phillips 9 years, 6 months ago

I've asked this before, Palin really scares you Libs! Why?You all are obviously terrified by be celebrating such a lame story.

nobody1793 9 years, 6 months ago

You're all missing the point. This is all because of rap music, St. Lukes, Sue Hack, and Lew Perkins! Aaargh!

maryatvan 9 years, 6 months ago

2008 Obama ~ Binden represents the voice of the people. But come election day in America there is a greater question to ask than who will win. The question is: are the same electronic ballot voting machines fixed yet. During the Gore / Bush election the company given the contract to make the electronic machines were Bush supporters. An investigation after that election showed that when Gores vote came in it 'defaulted' to a Bush vote. Canada is counting on Americans to stand up now for true democracy = for the people, and vote Obama. Wisdom born out of Intelligence creates new change!

uncleandyt 9 years, 6 months ago

The whole thing reeks of Rove-fish. Palin will drop out to be replaced by Adam Sandler or Pete Samprass or Jeb or Ahnold or Toby Keith, unless they are trying to lose. Maybe they want out of the messes that Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter left for them to clean. Maybe they can't cash in on the plunder until they are out of office.Retreat - regroup - repulsive - Republican

beatrice 9 years, 6 months ago

Guardian: "bea-If Palin was a Liberal, I'd bet y'all would love her."No, that isn't true. Or rather, we might love her, but not for vp. I wouldn't want just any liberal to be given the vp nod with Obama. Do you really think we would be happy if he had named Barbara Streisand as vp? I want our nation to do well, not just support my ideals at any cost. Heck, I'm a liberal, but I sure wouldn't want me to be selected as vp. "She is a strong and independent woman, who is not Hillary, that can make a decision when needed. I would think that, as a Liberal, you would support that." Are you impressed with Obama simply because he is a man who is not John McCain? So why should I be impressed with Palin just because she is a woman? Women make decisions every day. Palin's ability to do so doesn't impress me just because she is a woman. As I stated, I don't think she is evil and of course I support her being a decent mother, and being sharp enough to be a successful small business owner and capable enough to be mayor of a small town and be elected governor. Good for her. However, when you look at her decisions, and her decision to abuse her powers to get what she wants, it brings into question her decision-making abilities. I don't care for the decisions she has made one bit, which would be true if she were a woman or a man. As far as elitism goes, I'm not talking about the monied and powerful elite who do whatever possible to keep the rich rich and the poor poor and make decisions to keep that status quo, rather I speak of the intellectually elite among us. I want smart, intelligent, wise leaders -- not just anyone off the street. Those are the elites I like. Do you really think the founders of our nation weren't the intellectually elite of their age? Think of it this way, if you had your choice between getting on an airplane headed through stormy weather with an elite pilot who graduated at the head of his class or a pilot who missed several classes and just passed his exams by the slimest of margins, it is pretty obviousl which pilot you would choose? Well, we are living with the consequences of picking the other pilot, the "C" student when it comes to running the country. We simply can't afford to do that again.

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