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Troopergate: Palin Abused Powers, Violated Law

The Republican-dominated Alaska legislature released its Troopergate investigation results last night and Sarah Palin does not come out covered in glory.

Anchorage Daily News reports, under the headline “Troopergate report: Palin abused power,”

A legislative investigation has concluded that Gov. Sarah Palin abused her power in pushing for the firing of an Alaska state trooper who was once married to her sister, or by failing to prevent her husband Todd from doing so.

The report by investigator Steve Branchflower was made public late this afternoon by a bipartisan 12-0 vote of the Legislative Council, which authorized the investigation.  Branchflower’s report contains four findings. The first concludes that Palin violated the state’s executive branch ethics act, which says that “each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust.”

[...]

“Governor Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda … to get Trooper Michael Wooten fired,” Branchflower’s report says.   “Compliance with the code of ethics is not optional. It is an individual responsibility imposed by law, and any effort to benefit a personal interest through official action is a violation of that trust. … The term ‘benefit’ is very broadly defined, and includes anything that is to the person’s advantage or personal self-interest.”

In the second finding, Branchflower says Monegan’s refusal to fire Wooten was not the sole reason for his dismissal but that it was a “contributing factor.” Still, he said, Palin’s firing of Monegan was “a proper and lawful exercise” of the governor’s authority.

NYT weighs in with “Alaska Inquiry Concludes Palin Abused Powers.”

What now lies ahead is not fully known at this point. Ms. Palin could be censured by the Legislature, but that is unlikely.

[...]

At a news conference Friday evening, a local McCain-Palin campaign spokeswoman, Meghan Stapleton, said that Mr. Branchflower’s abuse of power finding was the result of an “overreach” by the investigator who went beyond “the intent of the original” inquiry.

Ms. Stapleton added that the governor “feels absolutely vindicated” because the report concluded that Ms. Palin was acting within her legal authority when she “reassigned” Mr. Monegan. On July 11, he was told by the governor’s acting chief of staff that Ms. Palin wanted him to head the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, and that she wanted to take the public safety agency in a new direction.

In an e-mail statement, Ms. Stapleton said the report showed that the investigation was a “partisan led inquiry run by Obama supporters and the Palins were completely justified in their concern regarding Trooper Wooten given his violent and rogue behavior.”

A shameful response. Palin violated the law in numerous ways and her response is to blame the investigators for … what exactly?  She’s the chief law enforcement officer of her state and essentially her first act in office was to break the law to settle a personal score.

It’s almost certainly too late for it to do much good but, certainly, McCain should drop Palin from his ticket.

UPDATE: Nathan Thornburgh in TIME:

Those answers were expected, given that most of the best pieces of evidence have been part of the public record for months. The result is not a mortal wound to Palin, nor does it put her at much risk of being forced to leave the ticket her presence succeeded in energizing.

But the Branchflower report still makes for good reading, if only because it convincingly answers a question nobody had even thought to ask: Is the Palin administration shockingly amateurish? Yes, it is. Disturbingly so.

The 263 pages of the report show a co-ordinated application of pressure on Monegan so transparent and ham-handed that it was almost certain to end in public embarrassment for the governor. The only surprise is that Troopergate is national news, not just a sorry piece of political gristle to be chewed on by Alaska politicos over steaks at Anchorage’s Club Paris.

A harsh verdict? Consider the report’s findings. Not only did people at almost every level of the Palin administration engage in repeated inappropriate contact with Walt Monegan and other high-ranking officials at the Department of Public Safety, but Monegan and his peers constantly warned these Palin disciples that the contact was inappropriate and probably unlawful. Still, the emails and calls continued — in at least one instance on recorded state trooper phone lines.

The state’s head of personnel, Annette Kreitzer, called Monegan and had to be warned that personnel issues were confidential. The state’s attorney general, Talis Colberg, called Monegan and had to be reminded that the call was putting both men in legal jeopardy, should Wooten decide to sue. The governor’s chief of staff met with Monegan and had to be reminded by Monegan that, “This conversation is discoverable … You don’t want Wooten to own your house, do you?”

Monegan consistently emerges as the adult in these conversations, while the Palin camp displays a childish impetuousness and sense of entitlement.

But at least it doesn’t put her in any danger of being tossed from the ticket.

Related Posts:

About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Steve Plunk says:

    Drop Palin? You can’t be serious.

    Look at the facts surrounding the dirt bag brother in law and tell us you wouldn’t try and get him dismissed from the police force. He tasered a kid. He abused alcohol. He threatened members of the family.

    Like most public sector or academic employees it seems process matters more than results. Palin’s mistake was not going through proper channels and protocols to get this done as well as thinking that as governor she was responsible for all state employees. Insubordination by the head of the state police is reason enough to fire him to most of us out here in America.

    This is the Dems October surprise that surprised no one and lacks enough substance for anyone to care. This is supposedly big enough to drop her from the ticket while Obama’s sweetheart real estate deal with Rezko is ignored? I think not.

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  2. Bithead says:

    I’m with Plunk.

    Add to that, the loaded use of the phrase “Republican dominated’.

    You are aware, James, that about half the Republican party up there, including most of the people on that board, are out to get Palin for her blowing the whistle on the excesses of several Republicans, right?

    The case against Palin simply doesn’t hold water.

    See also, leak, screen door, submarine.

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  3. Derrick says:

    I think that what Steve and Bithead fail to realize is that state employees are paid to work on state issues not settling their personal scores no matter what the details are. And plus, Palin fired her “evil” brother-in-law’s boss not the brother-in-law.

    Add to that the complaining about a bi-partisan commission and it seems like people just want to make excuses at this point. The facts as well as the findings point to her and “Vice-Governor” Todd Palin using state resources to settle a personal issue. That’s abuse of power, no matter whether its a Democrat or Republican.

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  4. Drop Palin? Are you serious?

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  5. anjin-san says:

    I want to make sure I get the talking point straight. Was the investigation the doing of Republicans who had it in for Palin, or partisan Democrats equipped with time machines who went back to launch the investigation before she was on the ticket?

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  6. David Holliday says:

    The report is a farce. It’s an investigation pushed forward by a bunch of Obama supporters that found that it was unethical for a sitting Governor to do something that was a proper and lawful exercise of her power. The act in question was to reassign an insubordiante member of her cabinet to another position in her Government. The report hasn’t been reviewed, acted on, or validated by any authority. Seriously. You folks have lost it.

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  7. Fence says:

    No worries, I can see Palin’s defeat from my window.

    If Palin were capable of being a good President, I’d be willing to look past this. This barely makes my top 8000 reasons for being disturbed that McCain picked her. James, I hate to break it to you, but this ain’t a reason in today’s Republican party to drop her — indeed, they knew about it when they picked her. This isn’t Reagan’s party anymore, the Frankensteins have dispensed with the doctor and rule the roost now. (Plus, it is way too late to drop her now).

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  8. Fence says:

    The report is a farce. It…found that it was unethical for a sitting Governor to do something that was a proper and lawful exercise of her power.

    This comment reminds me of the defense of the US attorney firings. Sure, US attorneys serve “at the pleasure of the President.” But one way we as voters can measure the quality of a President is what gives him pleasure and what does not.

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  9. anjin-san says:

    It’s an investigation pushed forward by a bunch of Obama supporters

    So it is the time machine defense?

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  10. sam says:

    The report is a farce. It’s an investigation pushed forward by a bunch of Obama supporters that found that it was unethical for a sitting Governor to do something that was a proper and lawful exercise of her power.

    The Obama supporter thing will come as a surprise to the eight Republicans on the Legislative Council that voted to release the report. Oh, and yeah, the vote was 12-0 to release: eight Republicans and four Democrats.

    Like I said a while ago: Sarah Palin is the second coming of Richard Nixon, with all his pettiness, vindictiveness, and paranoia — sans the intelligence.

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  11. anjin-san says:

    Sarah Palin is the second coming of Richard Nixon, with all his pettiness, vindictiveness, and paranoia — sans the intelligence.

    An interesting observation, and spot on about Nixon (and probably Palin as well). At least he had a truly first class intellect to offset his many character flaws.

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  12. sam says:

    Sarah Palin is a moron, and a dangerous moron, at that. She does have a genius, though–the genius of a televangelist. She has a Swaggart-like ability to reach out and massage that psychoerogenous zone that passes for the higher brain functions for a certain subset of the American population.

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  13. G.A.Phillips says:

    0bma is a moron, and a dangerous moron, at that. He does have a genius, though–the genius of a propagandist. He has a Hitler-like ability to reach out and massage that servileness zone that passes for the higher brain functions for a certain subset of the American population.

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  14. Floyd says:

    What’s all the fuss about?? Everybody KNOWS that Obama is the perfect and unbeatable candidate,and anybody that doesn’t agree is a racist hate criminal!
    Palin’s trouble will be over November 5th, and all of our problem’s will be solved!
    “Obama the Great” has come to deliver all those who can’t run their own lives and are looking for the control of the character representing the government in Orwell’s “1984″…AKA……..

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  15. jim says:

    To the commenters who asked if James was serious–
    Mr. inside the beltway is very serious. In fact he has been against Palin since the first day. I have a suggestion James—why don’t you give up blogging or go to KOS where your “analysis” will be much appreciated.

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  16. anjin-san says:

    James, I give you the modern GOP. What a shame. Used to be a party of solid thinkers and ideas.

    James—why don’t you give up blogging or go to KOS where your “analysis” will be much appreciated.

    “Obama the Great” has come to deliver all those who can’t run their own lives and are looking for the control of the character representing the government in Orwell’s “1984″

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  17. Steve in wNY says:

    Wow, James. You REALLY dislike Palin. Dispassionate reasoning, waiting for the facts, looking at the original source material, making your own conclusions…normal course of action–except as regards the crazy moose-lady, eh?

    Although I have enough of a so-called life not to have read the entire Branchflower report (and, frankly never will), it’s pretty clearly a hatchet job.

    The fact that it was released was not an endorsement by the AK legislative committee. Political gamesmanship is afoot from left and right, and part of why it was released now has to do with timing. Not that it really matters at this point, because the financial meltdown has essentially sealed McCain’s fate, but seriously, a Friday release before a 3-day weekend, three plus weeks before the election. Seems like it boiled down to the Dems were going to be sure to release it even if through a leak (and at a time geared to maximum damage) and the Reps did their best to force it out at the least damaging time they could muster between now and election day. Score 1 for the AK Reps.

    Beldar has a well-written piece, sure to be hated by many of the commentariat on your blog these days, that also links to the original report. It’s certainly worth a look before reflexively taking another swing at the “ignoramus.”

    Oh, and jim @ 10:20. It IS James’ blog, you know. It’s probably bad form to tell him to go elsewhere.

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  18. jim says:

    Anjin-san I’ve been reading your emotional, biased, illogical crap for a while now. I used to wonder why you trolled here but now I wonder why I come here at all.
    Please don’t lump me together into your world of dumb republicans; you know nothing about me and judging from your comments you know very little about anything.

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  19. jim says:

    Steve you are probably correct but I used to enjoy this blog. In the past I got opinions that caused me to think and challenged my views. However, just as I need to hear different voices on issues James probably needs to hear some negative notes apart from the several who are always that way.
    And Steve bad form is my trademark.

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  20. anjin-san says:

    but now I wonder why I come here at all.

    Don’t let the doorknob hit you on the way out junior.

    PS, whining is unbecoming in a grown man. You should really give it a rest.

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  21. lunacy says:

    Yeah, I agree with others above, re: James.

    God love him.

    He’s been obviously (and ridiculously) anti-Palin from the onset.

    My only curiosity about it is…

    Is it motivated by elitism or gender bias.

    I’ll grant that she may not be the best choice (I would have selected Romney) but she’s certainly not the loser he consistently tries to paint her as.

    Let’s not forget that the Republican party of Alaska isn’t overly fond of her due to her actions against them.

    Frankly, I think that’s a good thing.

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  22. anjin-san says:

    biased

    I think everyone who spends any time in here at all has seen my frequent praise for President Reagan, as well as the GOP congress of the 90s. My first choice for President in this cycle was Chuck Hagel, a Republican. I myself was a member of the GOP until the Bush family made it too embarrassing to remain one.

    Earlier in this thread I made reference to the high quality of Richard Nixon’s intellect. I pretty much despised Nixon, but I give credit where credit is due. Reading his articles on history is a pleasure.

    Where exactly is my bias? Or is it just that, in the modern GOP, any American who does not toe the party line is labeled “biased”? Yea, free thought, can’t have that…

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  23. jim says:

    Anjin-san to have you lecture me on whining is wonderful. Thanks for you expert advice.
    And lunacy I have wondered the same thing about his opinion. Perhaps the elitism is what I’m getting with more and more of the posts by James.

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  24. anjin-san says:

    Thanks for you expert advice.

    You are welcome. I do have some expertise when it comes to telling what people are all about. Before I got into IT work, I was in the nightclub business for years. Saw a lot, the good the bad and the ugly. Hung out with some of the brightest, most talented people in the world. Ran across a lot of complete idiots as well.

    In that line of work, you have to be able to size a guy up between the time he walks in the door and the time he sits down at the bar. It is a useful skill, and it continues to serve me well.

    Guys who whine and say thing like”bad form is my trademark” with pride… well, let me just say that no one takes them seriously, but themselves.

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  25. jim says:

    If you can’t tell self-depreciation from boasting and pride then you need to go back to the clubs rather than IT work. It turns out I really was a little over the top telling someone to leave their own blog.
    Plus tell me where I’m whining– I’m basically James and you for that matter that I don’t agree with your position.

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  26. anjin-san says:

    I’m basically James and you for that matter that I don’t agree with your position.

    Well, you are now lapsing into incoherence. That is a sentence worthy of Palin herself.

    you need to go back to the clubs

    Any night they have good jazz, I do :)

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  27. jim says:

    Sorry left out the just TELLING you and james where I don’t agree.
    BTW saw Palin at an event recently. She did fine. I do get a little tired of the constant all republicans are stupid meme. My congressman is but they all aren’t.

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  28. anjin-san says:

    I do get a little tired of the constant all republicans are stupid meme.

    I suggest you reread some of the things I have said in this very thread.

    “An interesting observation, and spot on about Nixon. At least he had a truly first class intellect”

    “My first choice for President in this cycle was Chuck Hagel, a Republican”

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  29. jim says:

    See we can’t ever agree– I find Senator Chuck to be one of the republicans who whenever there is a choice he goes to the front of the dumbest line. But if we all agreed comments wouldn’t keep us up this late:)
    However, I come from the libertarian wing of the party and in fact they basically ran me out of the party. I got tired of the social doctrine.
    Fun discussion but time for it to end tonight.

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  30. anjin-san says:

    I find Senator Chuck to be one of the republicans who whenever there is a choice he goes to the front of the dumbest line.

    I find him to be a highly decorated combat vet who actually reads legislation before he reads it and always puts country first, even when it pisses off the people who are currently running the GOP.

    Referring to Mr. Hagel as “Senator Chuck” seems deliberately disrespectful. I remind you that you are referring to a man who received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam. But then I forget “support the troops” is strictly a slogan to the modern GOP.

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  31. anjin-san says:

    actually reads legislation before he reads

    before he signs it…

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  32. jim says:

    I find no bronze star in his record and while I respect his CIB, I find his senate career to be less than stellar.

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  33. anjin-san says:

    I find no bronze star in his record

    It ain’t rocket science Jim. Google “Chuck Hagel Bronze Star”. I will give you a freebie.

    http://www.businessweek.com/2000/00_28/b3689130.htm

    Hagel is also a self-made millionaire. Unlike Sen. McCain, who lives large on his wife’s dime.

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  34. davod says:

    For what it is worth, I think Mr. Joyner has bit the apple for Obama. He certainly has adopted the media’s policy of not bothering to fact check before posting. Otherwise he would have taken the time to read the reports findings ( additionally, the guy was not fired. He was reassigned and resigned instead.)

    From Townhall.com:

    taken from the report.

    “Finding Number One

    For the reasons explained in section IV of this report, I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) provides

    The legislature reaffirms that each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust.”

    Finding Number Two

    I find that, although Walt Monegan’s refusal to fire Trooper Michael Wooten was not the sole reason he was fired by Governor Sarah Palin, it was likely a contributing factor to his termination as Commissioner of Public Safety. In spite of that, Governor Palin’s firing of Commissioner Monegan was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.”

    How can the writer square his finding number one with his finding number two?

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  35. Brett says:

    Keep in mind that actual Vice Presidents in the past have been kicked out for crimes committed in the past – Spiro Agnew was dropped by Nixon because of extortion charges.

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  36. sam says:

    0bma is a moron, and a dangerous moron, at that. He does have a genius, though–the genius of a propagandist. He has a Hitler-like ability to reach out and massage that servileness zone that passes for the higher brain functions for a certain subset of the American population.

    That’s a form of plagiarism, GA, but since it’s you, it’s understandable. I’m sure original thought engenders in you an Excedrin moment. And don’t take what I originally wrote personally, I mean I did mention to “higher brain functions”.

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  37. rodney dill says:

    Davod,

    This post points to the documentation for why Monegan was removed from his post. If you’ve had employees, this sort of insubordination is far more than enough to fire someone for cause.

    As for Wooten, I suspect that area posed an ethical dilemma for Palin. She both knew he was bad and needed to be removed due to her family link, and was in a position to influence that outcome. She chose to take the path of trying remove a bad trooper, regardless of what it would look like.

    With that in mind I can see how both finding could be made, though I suspect the first is more political payback from her own party. A handslap that has no teeth in it.

    Obama has said he would do the same thing in going after Osama. Obama says he would go after Osama, if he knew where Osama was, regardless of whether he had the legal right to do it or not.

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  38. Much ado about nothing, unless you wanted another reason to justify a preconceived conclusion.

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  39. Just curious James, but how does Governor Palin’s malfeasance stack up against, oh, I don’t know, Bill Clinton’s as Governor of Arkansas? Or Hillary Clinton as First Lady? (Now there was someone who knew how to get someone else fired.)

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  40. anjin-san says:

    Obama says he would go after Osama, if he knew where Osama was, regardless of whether he had the legal right to do it or not

    Here is a bit of real Bushie thinking for you. Going after the man who murdered thousands of Americans in the heart of NYC is a bad thing…

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  41. James Joyner says:

    how does Governor Palin’s malfeasance stack up against, oh, I don’t know, Bill Clinton’s as Governor of Arkansas? Or Hillary Clinton as First Lady?

    Well, Clinton had twelve years as governor and, so far as I recall, his chief malfeasance was using troopers to get him laid. And, while I didn’t have a blog at the time — who did, really — I thought he was morally unfit to serve as president.

    I’m less sure what Hillary was supposed to have done as First Lady. The Travelgate scandal was creepy but not illegal. The various document “findings” were far more disturbing. Again, though, I thought both Clintons a cancer on the body politic.

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  42. anjin-san says:

    Just curious James, but how does Governor Palin’s malfeasance stack up against, oh, I don’t know, Bill Clinton’s as Governor of Arkansas?

    Sounds a bit like moral equivalence. At any rate, Palin is running for office and the Clinton’s are not.

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  43. anjin-san says:

    Obama says he would go after Osama, if he knew where Osama was, regardless of whether he had the legal right to do it or not

    Do you have any documentation for this? “Legal Right” sounds like your read on it, not one based in fact…

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  44. G.A.Phillips says:

    That’s a form of That’s a form of That’s a form of plagiarism, GA, but since it’s you, it’s understandable. I’m sure original thought engenders in you an Excedrin moment. And don’t take what I originally wrote personally, I mean I did mention to “higher brain functions”.

    lol you spelled the name 0bama wrong,stated the wrong ability and assigned the wrong diagnoses, otherwise it was perfect,and I was only trying to help.

    And you don’t know poop about me except for the fact that you think your smarter then me or a better wise ass, your way off on both assumptions.

    “That’s a form of plagiarism”, lol. Thats funny,it was a couple of posts down and obviously making fun of you, smoke another one and try again.

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  45. G.A.Phillips says:

    Obama says he would go after Osama, if he knew where Osama was, regardless of whether he had the legal right to do it or not

    good!

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  46. TJIT says:

    Contrary comment from a related thread over at Volokh.

    Where are the Libertarians on Troopergate?

    The report is facially corrupt, with a headline key “finding” that is not supported by the rest of the “findings” in the body of it, which cites only a general paragraph of the Ethics Act that is void for vagueness if taken by itself.

    The only detailed findings do more to make the actions of the Palins commendable than unethical, and indict the signatories of this report.

    Given the known facts about Trooper Wooten and his supervisor Monegan, they both deserved to be not only fired, but prosecuted.

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  47. Stix says:

    Did they find she did anything illegal???? No Did she do anything that should warrant her to be taking off the ticket???? No

    This is a joke of a finding. Even the supposed guy that was “pressured” to fire this guy said they did not pressure him.

    This pales in comiparison to what Obama and his friends in Chicago tried to do the the Chicago school system. They wanted to have groups like ACORN and their ilk indoctrinate school children.

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