Troopergate Investigation Continues!

19 09 2008

The Ethics Investigation into what has become known as Troopergate lives to fight another day.

After waiting 35 minutes for Todd Palin and two state administrative employees to appear under subpoena before the state Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Hollis French condemned their refusal to testify and the attorney general’s broken promise that seven other witnesses would testify who were not subpoenaed.

French said the retired prosecutor hired by the Alaska Legislature to investigate Palin, Stephen Branchflower, will conclude his investigation by Oct. 10. Still, that report will not include testimony from the Republican vice-presidential nominee, her husband or most of the top aides Branchflower hoped to interview.

Sarah Palin’s allies hoped the investigation would be delayed past the election to spare her any troublesome revelations – or at least the distraction – before voters have made their choice. Palin’s reputation as clean-government advocate who takes on entrenched interests is central to her appeal as Republican John McCain’s running mate, and possibly at risk in the probe.

Palin initially promised to cooperate in the investigation, telling the Legislature to “hold me accountable.” Lawmakers were investigating accusations she dismissed the state’s public safety commissioner because he refused to fire her ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper. She now opposes the investigation.

Palin spokesman Bill McAllister declined to comment Friday. The McCain campaign said there are concerns about the effect of political influence on the Legislature’s inquiry and Palin will provide any information needed to a separate investigation by the Alaska State Personnel Board.

The committee subpoenaed six people to appear Friday to testify or meet for private interviews with Branchflower. French said three of those six had complied. Todd Palin, special assistant Ivy Frye and Randy Ruaro, who is the governor’s deputy chief of staff, did not.

Todd Palin’s attorney sent French a letter Thursday listing Palin’s objections to the Legislature’s investigation of his wife. Among them, the attorney said, were jurisdiction questions, separation of power issues and an inconvenient travel schedule.

Subpoenas were approved on seven other government employees but not served because the state attorney general’s office had agreed to cooperate, French said. But Attorney General Talis Colberg earlier this week reversed himself, saying the governor declined to participate and that Palin administration employees would not appear.

French said subpoenas will be issued for those seven people, ordering them to testify on Sept. 26.

In an interview today on KUDO, Alaska Democratic Representative Harry Crawford said,

This is a perfectly good reason for not having an appointed Attorney General.

Alaska is one of only five states to have an Attorney General who is appointed by the governor, rather than chosen by the people.  Colberg’s reaction upon learning of McCain’s pick of Palin as his running mate was “a mixed set of emotions, kind of an odd sense of Alaska nationalism or pride.”  “It was an emotional thing to see the governor walk out with her family, and I say, ‘Wow, I work for her.’

Crawford rightly noted that “He’s suposed to be the state’s top law official. He’s supposed to be working for the people, and he thinks he’s there working for Sarah Palin, and that’s not right”.

When asked what can and should be done about the current situation, Crawford suggested:

1. Change the Alaska constitution to make the Attorney General an elected independent position.

2. Pursue some sort of recall against Talis Colberg.

I’ts obvious that Talis Colberg is working for the governor,  and that the McCain camp has taken over the state.  It’s not right that the Attorney General is urging people to ignore or break the law.  They [the McCain campaign] are in complete charge of what’s goin on in the state right now. They are trying to spin, or shut down anything that looks negative for the McCain Palin ticket.

Crawford does his best to separate his personal feelings, and his feelings about Palin as governor, from his feelings about her as a VP candidate.

I like Sarah Palin, I like Todd Palin. I think she did an amazing job on oil tax reform and the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, but as far as Troopergate, she’s said all along she’s going to be open and transparent,  and since the McCain people have come into this they have shut it down…put up a wall.  It’s obvious when we’re listening to what comes from Talis Colberg,  or any other administration people, they are parroting what [McCain lawyer] Edward O’Callaghan has had to say. We’re not givng you any more information,  we’re just going to stonewall.

On Walt Monegan and the reason for his firing?  Crawford’s understanding is that

“She fired him because they had a disagreement on funding, and what I’ve been told was that she wanted to cut $2 million from the public safety budget. He said he cound’t keep running the department on the current amount, much less $2 million less. There was a disagreement on what the safety of Alaskans required.  That’s a bigger story”. 

And about the evisceration of former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan by the McCain campaign:

You’re not going to find anyone in law enforcement more honorable than Walt Monegan. He’s done a fine job since the time he was patrolman to the time he was Commissioner of Public Safety. I have compelte respect for him. 

This put me in mind of something Walt Monegan said last week.  “I would gladly die for the governor, but I will not lie for her.”

So.  The troopergate investigation lives to see another day.  So go get your big red Sharpie and circle October 10th on your calendar.  That’s when Stephen Branchflower will wrap up the investigation, and we’ll be ready for the next chapter in the saga. The investigation will conclude before the election, with or without the cooperation of the governor, her husband, and the state employees who defied subpoenas.   I’ll bet when Branchflower agreed to come back to the state and out of retirement to do this investigation, he never dreamed how things would turn out.  None of us did.