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.