September 13, 2008
Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s abuse of power scandal in Alaska is centering on her husband, Todd Palin, who it turns out, wields considerable behind-the-scenes power in the state government, even though he has no official job. He’s also the latest to be subpoenaed in the investigation into Sarah Palin’s firing of the state public safety director.
Meanwhile political maneuvering is underway in the state capital to delay the probe until after the Nov. 4 election. Republican state legislators were stymied, however, after GOP state Sen. Charlie Huggins, who represents Palin’s hometown of Wasilla, sided with Democrats. “Let’s just get the facts on the table,” said Huggins, according to the Anchorage Daily News.
Sarah Palin is under investigation for allegedly abusing her power by firing public safety director Walt Monegan, after he refused to fire Mike Wooten, a state trooper who went through a nasty divorce and custody battle with the governor’s sister. Palin claims Monegan was let go because of a budget dispute.
Stephen Branchflower, who is investigating the case, obtained the subpoena for Todd Palin from the state Senate Judiciary Committee. Branchflower also wants to interview the governor but chose to exclude her from the 13-person list of subpoena targets. He called Todd Palin “a central figure” in the scandal.
Palin was portrayed at the Republican National Convention as an affable oil-rig worker and championship snowmachine racer. But news broke this week that he is also a powerful shadow figure in his wife’s administration. Despite holding no government position, he attends official meetings and is copied on e-mails concerning state business, according to the Anchorage newspaper.
The McCain campaign released a statement from Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, blaming Democrats. “I’m disappointed by the complete hijacking of what should be a fair and objective process,” the Republican said, calling the investigation a “smear.”
September 6, 2008
Source: Washington Post
WASILLA, Alaska — The state trooper at the center of Gov. Sarah Palin’s Troopergate scandal denied that he ever threatened to kill Palin’s father and expressed regret that his case has exploded into the national media.
“I would like to put this behind me and move on with my life,” Trooper Mike Wooten said in an interview with The Washington Post. “I don’t wish ill will on anyone. I think that the nomination that Sarah got is great for the state of Alaska. I wish her good luck and the family good luck. I honestly think that everyone involved in this wanted to put this beyond us.”
He also voiced pride that he had once been part of the Palin family. “I was a member of that family for five years. I cherish those memories,” he said. “I will carry them with me for the rest of my life. There are several things that will be handled differently on my part and if I could do it over differently, I would.”
Wooten, however, contradicted Palin’s statement that she overheard him in 2005 threaten her father during an argument with Palin’s younger sister, Molly McCann, Wooten’s wife at the time. Wooten noted that an internal investigation failed to sustain the death-threat allegation.
“That did not happen,” Wooten said. “There was obviously arguments between Molly and I, but there were no confrontations where I threatened to kill her father. I haven’t threatened to kill anyone in that family.”
Wooten, 36, speaking during a break while working in the Mat-Su Valley, acknowledged making mistakes in his first few years with the Alaska State Troopers. “I was younger,” he said. “I made some mistakes. I paid for those mistakes. They are behind me. I am trying to move on. My focus is on my job and my kids. I want to be the best dad that I can be and the best trooper that I can be.”
Wooten said he had no direct information about efforts to have him fired after Palin became governor in 2006.
“I had heard that there were still conversations and some pressure being sent forward about me being a trooper, but I didn’t know anything about concrete conversations,” Wooten said.
Palin is under investigation by the state legislature to determine if she pressured and then fired the state police commissioner for failing to dismiss Wooten. A senator leading the investigation said yesterday the bipartisan committee moved up the completion date of the report several weeks to Oct. 10.
Wooten and the governor’s sister divorced in 2005 and the couple have been embroiled in testy child custody fights.
On the same day that McCann filed for divorce in April 2005, the governor’s father made the first call to the state troopers to report allegations of wrongdoing. Complaints filed by McCann, Sarah Palin and their family resulted in more than 20 internal-affairs investigations, said his attorney, Richard Payne.
September 4, 2008
Source: The Washington Post
EAGLE RIVER, Alaska, Sept. 3 — Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the running mate for GOP presidential candidate John McCain, wrote e-mails that harshly criticized Alaska state troopers for failing to fire her former brother-in-law and ridiculed an internal affairs investigation into his conduct.
The e-mails, never before made public, were shown to The Washington Post by a former public safety commissioner, Walter Monegan, who was fired by Palin in July. Monegan has given copies of the e-mails to state ethics investigators to support his contention that he was dismissed for failing to fire Trooper Mike Wooten, who at the time was feuding with Palin’s family.
“This trooper is still out on the street, in fact he’s been promoted,” said the Feb. 7, 2007, e-mail sent from Palin’s personal Yahoo account and written to give Monegan permission to speak on a violent-crime bill before the state legislature.
“It was a joke, the whole year long ‘investigation’ of him,” the e-mail said. “This is the same trooper who’s out there today telling people the new administration is going to destroy the trooper organization, and that he’d ‘never work for that b****’, Palin’.)”
Asked about the e-mails, Palin’s campaign spokeswoman Maria Comella said that Palin was merely alerting officials to potential threats to her family and that there is no evidence that Palin ever ordered Wooten to be fired.
Palin is under investigation by a bipartisan state legislative body that was authorized last month to look into whether Palin pressured Monegan to force Wooten from the state police force and whether his failure to do so led to his dismissal.
Palin had promised to cooperate with the legislative inquiry, but this week she hired a lawyer to fight to move the case to the jurisdiction of the state personnel board, which Palin appoints. Her attorney, Thomas V. Van Flein, challenged the jurisdiction of Stephen Branchflower, the retired prosecutor hired to investigate and report back to the legislature by the last week of October.
When Palin entered the governor’s office in late 2006, Wooten already had been reprimanded, reassigned and suspended for five days for incidents reported by Palin’s family. They had filed complaints in April 2005 after her younger sister’s marriage fell apart and the couple battled in a bitter child-custody dispute.
Palin has said previously that she discussed Wooten with Monegan only in the context of security concerns for the family. Monegan has said that Palin never directly told him to fire Wooten but that the message was clearly conveyed through repeated messages from Palin, her husband and three members of her Cabinet.
“To allege that I, or any member of my family . . . directed disciplinary action be taken against any employee of the Department of Public Safety, is, quite simply, outrageous,” Palin said in a statement in mid-July after Monegan’s dismissal.
In August, Palin acknowledged that “pressure could have been perceived to exist, although I have only now become aware of it.”
During an interview here Wednesday, Monegan said that as Alaska’s top law enforcement official, he took his duties seriously. “I would willingly die for the governor, but I would never lie for her,” he said.
He showed The Post two e-mails he received from Palin but declined to give copies. The first e-mail came on Feb. 7, 2007, after the governor’s husband, Todd, met with Monegan to press the case for disciplinary action against Wooten. Palin’s family had accused the trooper of shooting a cow moose without a permit, Tasering his stepson, and drinking while driving a trooper vehicle. After her husband met with Monegan, Palin followed up with a phone call to Monegan.
In the e-mail sent a few weeks later, Palin encouraged Monegan to testify for a bill that would require 99-year sentences for police officers found guilty of murder. “For police officers to violate the public trust is a grave, grave violation — in my opinion. We have too many examples lately of cops and troopers who violate the public trust DPS has come across as merely turning a blind eye or protecting that officer, seemingly ‘for the good of the brotherhood’.”
She cited Wooten’s case as an example of violating the public trust. She recounted his transgressions, beginning with the killing of the cow moose using a permit obtained by his wife. Molly McCann, who uses her name from a previous marriage, was with Wooten at the time.
“He’s still bragging about it in my hometown and after another cop confessed to witnessing the kill, the trooper was ‘investigated’ for over a year and merely given a slap on the wrist,” the e-mail said. “Though he’s out there arresting people today for the same crime!”
“He threatened to kill his estranged wife’s parent, refused to be transferred to rural Alaska and continued to disparage Natives in words and tone, he continues to harass and intimidate his ex. — even after being slapped with a restraining order that was lifted when his supervisors intervened,” the e-mail said. “He threatens to always be able to come out on top because he’s ‘got the badge’, etc. etc. etc.)”
Palin wrote that the Wooten matter had contributed to “the erosion of faith Alaskans should have in their law enforcement officials.”
Saying the e-mail was “just my opinion,” she concluded, “I know you know I’ve experienced a lot of frustration with this issue. I know Todd’s even expressed to you a lot of concern about our family’s safety after this trooper threatened to kill a family member — so you need to know that if I am a supporter of whatever we can do to build trust back into DPS, then there are many other Alaskans in the same boat we are and may look on this new cop bill as a good thing.”
The second e-mail Monegan produced came from Palin’s Yahoo address on July 17, 2007, after the local newspaper publicized a legislative proposal that would keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.
Her first thought about the bill, the e-mail said, “went to my ex-brother-in-law, the trooper, who threatened to kill my dad yet was not even reprimanded by his bosses and still to this day carries a gun, of course.
“We can’t have double standards. Remember when the death threat was reported, and follow-on threats from Mike that he was going to ‘bring Sarah and her family down’ — instead of any reprimand WE were told by trooper union personnel that we’d be sued if we talked about those threats. Amazing. And he’s still a trooper, and he still carries a gun, and he still tells anyone who will listen that he will ‘ever work for that b*itch’ (me) because he has such anger and disdain towards my family.
“So consistency is needed here,” the e-mail said. “No one’s above the law. If the law needs to be changed to not allow access to guns for people threatening to kill someone, it must apply to everyone.”
September 3, 2008
(CNN) — As she takes part in the Republican National Convention with Sen. John McCain, the abuse of power investigation facing Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at home is charging ahead, and the governor is expected to be questioned this month, according to the lawmaker overseeing the investigation.
Palin’s attorney is locked in a legal battle with the Alaska legislature, insisting that it does not have “primary jurisdiction” in the matter. The Democratic chairman of the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, has threatened subpoenas if Palin doesn’t continue to cooperate in organizing witness interviews.
Letters between the two sides show a legal back-and-forth over several sticking points, with the committee chairman saying that Palin’s newfound status as McCain’s running mate “does not change the steps” the committee is taking and that he requests a “September date for the governor’s deposition.”
The inquiry boils down to whether Palin used her power to have a state commissioner fired for refusing to dismiss her former brother-in-law from the state police. She has denied any wrongdoing.
Her sudden, unexpected entry into the presidential race has taken the web of characters involved in the dispute and thrust them into the national spotlight. Video Watch McCain praise Palin »
The case centers on Walt Monegan, the public safety commissioner who was let go in July. After his dismissal, he said he had felt pressured by the governor’s office to fire state trooper Mike Wooten, who had been in a messy divorce and child custody battle with Palin’s sister.
Monegan said members of the governor’s staff and her husband, Todd Palin, had called and questioned him about Wooten.
At a news conference last month, Palin acknowledged that her administration had made more than 20 calls to the Department of Public Safety regarding Wooten. However, she said that Wooten had nothing to do with Monegan’s firing and that she had simply wanted new leadership to take the Department of Public Safety in “a new direction.” The post of commissioner is a gubernatorial appointment.
“The individual inquiries taken by themselves are one thing. Many of these inquiries were completely appropriate; however, the serial nature of the contacts understandably could be perceived as some kind of pressure, presumably at my direction,” she said.
Palin revealed a recording of one phone call made by her boards and commissions director, Frank Bailey, to a trooper lieutenant. In the call, Bailey complained that there had been “absolutely no action for a year on this issue” and said that Palin and her husband were frustrated that Wooten was still a state trooper.
“I am truly disappointed and disturbed to learn that a member of this administration contacted the Department of Public Safety regarding Trooper Wooten,” Palin said in a statement last month. “At no time did I authorize any member of my staff to do so.”
Palin placed Bailey on paid leave until the investigation is over.
The state Legislative Council — a bipartisan group of lawmakers — voted in July to spend $100,000 on an investigation and hired Stephen Branchflower, who spent 28 years as a state prosecutor in Anchorage, as special counsel to lead it. The council chose Sen. Hollis French, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to manage the investigation.
On Friday, Palin’s attorney, Thomas Van Flein, sent a letter via e-mail to Branchflower. “We fully welcome a fair inquiry into these allegations, and believe that the Personnel Board is statutorily mandated to oversee these proceedings,” he said, adding that under state law, the Personnel Board has “primary jurisdiction.”
The Personnel Board is “an independent agency composed of members appointed by the governor,” according to its Web site. Its duties include hearing ethics complaints against Executive Branch employees.
Palin’s attorney also wrote that he understood that there was an “informal agreement to share information the parties obtain through their own inquiries.” He requested copies of all witness statements, documentary evidence, a witness list and the “complaint or other charging document.”
And he requested a meeting with the investigator, Branchflower, to schedule depositions of witnesses.
Van Flein vowed full cooperation and said he would reciprocate in providing information.
Branchflower did not respond to the letter. Instead, French wrote a response Monday, saying the Personnel Board “would not have jurisdiction unless someone filed a complaint.”
“I hope you are not suggesting that the legislature does not have the authority to investigate possible violations of law by members of the Executive Branch,” he added.iReport.com: What do you think of McCain’s VP pick?
French asked whether Palin was aware that her attorney seemed to be “challenging” the legislature’s jurisdiction. “Such a position is at odds with our state’s constitution, and with your client’s public statements.”
As for the copies of witness statements, French wrote that he had instructed Branchflower not to comply.
“I think you would agree that it would be highly unusual for an investigator to share information with one of the targets of the investigation. I am unaware of any precedent for such an arrangement.”
He also said he told the investigator, Branchflower, to stick to his established schedule for interviewing witnesses — and that any delays “would cause me to convene a meeting of the Judiciary Committee and ask that subpoenas be considered.”
Although Palin’s “new political role” as Sen. John McCain’s running mate “will make it more challenging for her to make time for this investigation,” French wrote, her promises to cooperate and her vows that the campaign trail will not interfere with state business “should result in a concrete willingness to schedule and conclude her deposition.”
The two letters were first published by the Anchorage Daily News. Van Flein’s office then provided copies to CNN.
September 2, 2008
The Troopergate report is set for release to the public on October 31.
If it reveals serious ethical conflicts, it will likely have a substantial impact on the election.
September 2, 2008
Source: The Olympian
ANCHORAGE — Alaska’s former commissioner of public safety claims that Gov. Sarah Palin, John McCain’s pick to be vice president, personally talked to him on two occasions about a state trooper who was locked in a bitter custody battle with the governor’s sister.
Click here to find out more!
In a phone conversation Friday night, Walt Monegan, who was Alaska’s top cop until Palin fired him July 11, told The Anchorage Daily News that the governor also had e-mailed him two or three times about the trooper, Mike Wooten, though the e-mails didn’t mention Wooten by name.
What role Palin played in seeking her ex-brother-in-law’s dismissal is the governor’s first brush with scandal in a political career that has been premised on reforming Alaska’s corruption-plagued Republican party and raises questions not only about her willingness to use her office to further a personal agenda but also about her administrative abilities.
Palin’s replacement for Monegan, Chuck Kopp, was forced to resign just two weeks after he was appointed because of a sexual harassment complaint that had been filed against him when he was the chief of police in Kenai, Alaska.
Palin, in a news conference announcing Kopp’s resignation July 24, said she was unaware that the Kenai city council had reprimanded Kopp as a result of the complaint. She wouldn’t discuss how her staff had vetted Kopp before naming him to replace Monegan three days after Monegan was fired.
Monegan claims his refusal to fire Wooten was a major reason that Palin dismissed him. Wooten had been suspended for five days previously, based largely on complaints that Palin’s family had initiated before Palin became governor.
The events surrounding Monegan’s dismissal currently are under investigation by the state’s legislature. Palin has acknowledged that a member of her staff phoned a trooper lieutenant in an effort that could have been perceived as pressure to have Wooten dismissed and that her husband and other officials also had contacted Monegan about Wooten.
She’s insisted, however, that she did not authorize the phone call and was not aware of it. She has said she doesn’t believe any of the contacts amounted to pressuring Monegan. She suspended one of her aides after the recording of his discussions of Wooten with a trooper lieutenant became public.
Click here to find out more!
“The Governor did nothing wrong and has nothing to hide,” the McCain/Palin campaign said in a statement, blaming the issue on the campaign of the Democratic nominee, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama. “It’s outrageous that the Obama campaign is trying to attack her over a family issue. As a reformer and a leader on ethics reform, she has been happy to help out in the investigation of this matter, because she was never directly involved.”
But the trooper controversy has been swirling around Palin for weeks, long before Palin was launched Friday into the bright lights of the national campaign.
Monegan, however, said that Palin’s two contacts with him came after she became governor — once on the phone soon after she took office and once in person not long after that.
Monegan also said that the governor’s husband, Todd, talked to him several times about Wooten and that three top officials in her administration also contacted him.
Monegan also disclosed for the first time that Palin sent him two or three e-mails that referenced her ex-brother-in-law and his status as a trooper. Monegan declined to provide the e-mails because of the ongoing investigation.
Monegan said he believes his firing was directly related to the fact Wooten stayed on the job. “It was a significant factor, if not the factor,” Monegan said.
No one from the McCain campaign ever contacted him to vet Palin as a candidate, Monegan said.
Who did they contact? “We don’t talk about the vetting process,” said Maria Comella, Palin’s vice presidential campaign press secretary.
Palin apologized for the chaos that the Monegan dismissal and the Kopp resignation had caused. “This has been a tumultuous week in the Department of Public Safety, and as your governor, I apologize,” she said at the news conference.
September 2, 2008
Source: CBS News Blog
(Political Animal) THE CRIME AND THE COVER-UP…. At her kickoff event in Ohio yesterday, Sarah Palin boasted about having rejected congressional funds for the infamous “bridge to nowhere.” Soon after, we realized that Palin wasn’t telling the truth about one of her signature issues, on her very first day as a candidate for national office.
Now, some might say this is excusable, because Palin’s remarks were written by McCain campaign aides, and the McCain campaign barely knows who Palin is. That’s probably true.
But lying about an alleged abuse of power is far more serious.
Remember the expression, the cover-up is worse than the crime? It’s plainly true in the case of Palin firing Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan. Take a look at this video, from the ABC affiliate in Alaska, and notice that Palin seems to have been caught, rather blatantly, misusing her power and then lying about it.
While we’re at it, read this rather extraordinary report from the Washington Post about just how embarrassing this scandal is for Palin.
For that matter, let’s not forget that Palin fired the Alaska Public Safety Commissioner for the most dubious of reasons, and then replaced him with a guy facing a credible sexual harassment accusation, and who was out of the job two weeks later. What a great example of sound judgment.
As part of the investigation, Palin will have to leave the campaign trail to be deposed soon, the results of an investigation from the legislature into the controversy is due shortly before the election, and the word “impeachment” has been thrown around more the once.
Josh Marshall added, “Using the power of the government to settle scores with estranged relatives or associates is far from unprecedented…. But I doubt very much that they were prepared for the heat of full bore national media scrutiny on this one. And in this case you not only the underlying act, which is sleazy, but the high probability that Palin is lying about her role.”
Did John McCain even ask about any of this? Does he have any idea what it looks like? Why would he pick a running mate in the middle of an ethics scandal in which there’s strong evidence that the governor told obvious untruths?
I’m not making any predictions here, but I can’t help but wonder if Palin will still be on the Republican ticket by the time Election Day comes in November.
September 1, 2008
Source: The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Troopergate. It’s a political he-said, she-said that has dogged Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for nearly two months and is likely to do so for another two months leading to the Nov. 4 presidential election.
The little-known vice presidential candidate faces accusations of firing public safety commissioner Walt Monegan in what amounts to a messy Palin family drama dating to her pre-gubernatorial days. Monegan had refused to fire a state trooper who had divorced Palin’s sister.
The accuser is blogger and rental car executive Andrew Halcro, a Republican-turned-Independent who lost to Palin in the 2006 governor’s race.
The accused is Palin, the rising Republican star with a clean-hands reputation who has the most to lose.
The man in the middle is former commissioner, Monegan, who says Palin never told him to fire the trooper, but he felt pressure to do so from members of her administration.
Then there’s trooper Mike Wooten, who used a Taser on his stepson, Palin’s nephew Payton. Wooten has been reprimanded for violating nearly a dozen laws and departmental policies since December 2001.
It’s now in the hands of a state-hired investigator working for a Republican-dominated legislative committee that hopes to sort out the mess.
Palin steadfastly denies the allegations, and with her signature resolve, said she welcomes the investigation. “Hold me accountable,” she challenge her critics.
With Palin now in the national spotlight as McCain’s choice as running mate, the investigation could get more attention than the federal corruption probes involving Republican Sen. Ted Stevens and others that already is besetting this state.
“With this appointment, you’ve given an obscure investigation more national limelight than any grand jury,” said Democratic consultant Dane Strother. “Think about it, if they come down on her, what is McCain going to do?”
McCain’s campaign says it’s not worried about the investigation. “The bottom line is Governor Palin has a proven record championing transparency in government and we are confident in that record,” said McCain spokeswoman Maria Comella.
Monegan was fired in July, after he declined a transfer to become the director to the state’s alcohol control board.
At the time Palin said she wanted the department to move in a new direction. But later, after Monegan said he felt pressured to fire Wooten, Palin at a news conference said Monegan wasn’t a team player, didn’t do enough to fill trooper vacancies and battle alcohol abuse issues in rural Alaska.
State lawmakers have long said they understand that Monegan and other commissioners serve at will, meaning they can be fired by Palin at any time.
But they want to know if Palin abused her power with the potential motives of this firing being personal rather than work-related.
It began with a July 17 blog posting from Halcro, whose accusations gained momentum when Monegan publicly said he felt pressure from Palin’s administration to fire Wooten.
A few days later, the state approved $100,000 to hire an outside investigator, former Anchorage prosecutor Stephen Branchflower, to look into the firing.
Monegan could not be reached for comment, but he recently told the Anchorage Daily News that he was never directly told by Palin or anyone to fire Wooten. But he maintained that Palin, members of her administration and her husband, Todd Palin, raised the issue about Wooten’s employment numerous times.
A month after Monegan was dismissed, Palin revealed that at least two dozens calls were made from her staff members to Department of Public Safety officials, also questioning Wooten’s employment. But she denied orchestrating the calls.
One of those took place between Frank Bailey, Palin’s director of boards and commissions, and an Alaska state trooper serving as a liaison to the Legislature.
In the recorded conversation, Bailey is heard saying: “Todd and Sarah are scratching their heads, why on earth hasn’t, why is this guy still representing the department? He’s a horrible recruiting tool. … You know, I mean from their perspective, everyone’s protecting him.”
Palin has said she had no knowledge of the call, and Bailey told The Associated Press that he made the call without direction from anyone.
This investigation is separate from a higher profile federal probe of corruption of Alaska politics.
Stevens, the longest serving Republican in U.S. Senate history, faces trial later this month for allegedly lying on federal disclosure forms to hide $250,000 in gifts from VECO Corp. The state’s only congressman, Rep. Don Young, also is under investigation. Five former and current state lawmakers have either been sentenced to federal prison or await trial on bribery and conspiracy charges.
This investigation into Monegan’s dismissal has more than its share of subplots as well. The probe into Palin’s involvement if any was ordered by a Republican-dominated state legislative council that includes one of the lawmakers under a federal bribery indictment. And Branchflower, the investigator, is a former Anchorage prosecutor whose wife used to work for Monegan at the Anchorage Police Department.
Wooten did not a return message left Sunday on his cell phone by The Associated Press.