Interesting Rumors from a Reliable Source…

22 11 2008

It’s a relatively quiet day on the Mudflats. That always makes me nervous. It usually means that shortly there are going to be so many things hitting the fan, I won’t even have time to cover them all. That’s been the pattern, anyway.

There’s a little fallout from Turkey Gate. New news is promised on Monday regarding the crazy Stevens trial revelations which one reader brilliantly described as “Dynasty meets Northern Exposure meets The Sopranos.” But other than that, not much news. This gave lots of time today for speculation about things here in Alaska. Will the Governor be running for Lisa Murkowski’s senate seat in 2010, or will she try for another term as governor? And WHO will rise up and run against her? Will Ted Stevens win his appeal? Will I actually be able to consume turkey this Thanksgiving after witnessing Joe the executioner and his cone of death?

But a couple hours ago, I heard a little sound…..a sound you can only hear when it’s quiet. Like a paper envelope being slid under a door. (OK, this happened via email, but it doesn’t make as good a story) Minding my own business, sitting at my rolltop desk, watching the snow fall, the sound made me look up. I turned around, and sure enough I spotted it – an envelope, face down on the wide plank entryway floor. I stood and hurried over to the door, flung it open, and looked right….nothing. Looked left….and I just about made out a glimpse of a black cape as it whisked around the corner and out of sight. Hmmmm. I thought about pursuing the caped stranger, but as I had just been blogging, and following the proper dress code rules, I was in my pajamas and didn’t feel like racing out in the cold.

“Mudflats”. Yes, it was addressed to me. I slit open the envelope, intrigued. No return address, and the letter was signed “A Reputable Source.” (That means I know who it is, but I can’t tell you).

And the contents of the mystery note? A clue. A clue, which addressed one of the very questions I had just been pondering, and it wasn’t the one about the turkey, which won’t be answered until Thanksgiving Day.

The question? Who will step up to be the dragon slayer in 2010? Who has the smarts, the experience, the integrity, and the chutzpah to go toe-to-toe with Sarah Palin, whether she runs for governor, or senator. And there was the answer, scrawled in unfamiliar penmanship – Democratic State Senator Hollis French.

Ahhh. This is good. He is very qualified, has an impressive resume, and is one of the White Knights of the Legislature. Before he gets the official Mudflats endorsement, however (not that this endorsement is particularly coveted), I’m going to wait and watch and see what happens when the Legislature meets again. They have much on their plates, and they need to know they are supported, but they have some tough decisions ahead and people will be watching.

I saw Hollis French on Thursday. He was on line at Costco. That’s why I love this state. Our representatives aren’t somewhere distant, holed up in a marble tower. They don’t seem alien and unapproachable. They are on line at Costco, buying fruit. LOTS of fruit. The man really loves fruit. So, when it becomes appropriate to send something to Hollis French when he becomes our next Governor, or Senator, I’ll make it a fruit basket, and make it under $250.

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Palin Refuses to Cooperate with Ethics Probe. What a Surprise.

15 09 2008

This one didn’t surprise me.  The Associated Press is now reporting that Sarah Palin will no longer be cooperating with the Troopergate investigation.  Actually, I’m not sure if she ever was cooperating with the Troopergate investigation.  So far her cooperation has involved:

  1. Saying she was going to cooperate.
  2. Reiterating that she was going to cooperate.

and….that’s about it.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A campaign spokesman says Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin won’t speak with an investigator hired by lawmakers to look into the firing of her public safety commissioner.

McCain campaign spokesman Ed O’Callaghan told a news conference Monday that the governor, the Republican nominee for vice president, will not cooperate as long as the investigation “remains tainted.” He said he doesn’t know whether Palin’s husband would challenge a subpoena issued to compel his cooperation.

The campaign insists the investigation has been hijacked by Democrats.

And I have yet to have anyone explain to me how a Republican dominated Legislature could have voted unanimouslyto proceed with the investigation by special investigator Stephen Branchflower, and have been “hijacked by Democrats.”   That story may cut it with her new-found friends in the Lower 48, but it’s not cutting it here in Alaska.  I think that this move lost her a lot of respect with Alaska lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, and with a lot of Alaskan voters.  There are plenty in Alaska who are caught up in Sarah-mania, and will defend her no matter what she does, but not everyone.

The only reason Palin was not issued a subpoena, is because the Legislature actually believed her when she said she would cooperate.  They actually took her at her word.  (Patting Legislature on head) Oh, you trusting souls. 

Alaskans know corruption.  They know what it feels like to be kicked in the teeth by their elected representatives.  They recognize the signs of guilt, and the twisting and squirming, like a bug on a pin, that our corrupt politicians display when the heat gets turned up.  This is not new.  We’ve danced this dance more times than we care to admit in the last two years. But this one was supposed to be different.  THIS one was supposed to be “clear and transparent.”  THIS one stood up there in her lipstick and her red blazer, and her mantle of change and said, “Hold me accountable.”

We know what’s tainted this investigation, and ‘taint the Democrats.

OK, Legislature.  The ball is in your  court.  Dust yourselves off, because it’s your play.

 





Karl Rove Comes to Alaska…

12 09 2008

Les Gara and his entourage on Primary Night at Election Central in Anchorage.

Please give a big Mudflats welcome to our guest poster for the evening, Les Gara.  Les is a Democratic State Representative from Anchorage.  He’s also a former Assistant Attorney General (Exxon Valdez Litigation Section), and has been in office since 2003.  

 

I took that photo of Les at the Primary Night festivities at the Egan Convention Center in downtown Anchorage.  That’s him being interviewed for a local news cast.  He had the best signs, I thought.  You can only do so much with red, white, and blue.

 

Here’s Rep. Gara’s  take on McCain’s spin and interference with the bi-partisan “Troopergate” Investigation. 

 

Politicians are good at spin.  The McCain camp has brought a whole new level of it to our small state – in what looks like an effort to show they can play the same Karl Rove-like political games that have haunted this country for the last 8 years.  I like Governor Palin on a personal level.  But I don’t like what the McCain campaign is doing to our state.  I don’t like deception.  And I don’t like politics as usual.

 

Alaskans are starting to see evidence of a Karl Rove-like effort to stonewall what started as a non-controversial, bi-partisan “Troopergate” investigation.  A little deception here.  A few personal attacks there.  And the kind of spin you see at an amusement park tilt-a-whirl station.  

 

This investigation was started by a Republican-dominated Alaska Legislature to look into Governor Palin’s conduct in seeking the termination of a State Trooper, once married to the Governor’s sister, Trooper Michael Wooten.  The McCain camp wants to stop it by saying it’s a “democratic” investigation.  Apart from facts, and the reputations the McCain folks don’t mind destroying, there’s not a lot standing in the way of this strategy.

 

Until August 29 “Troopergate” was a small state investigation Governor Palin, and every Republican and Democrat in a Republican-led Legislature had agreed was appropriate.  But things changed the day Governor Palin joined the McCain ticket.  His handlers went ballistic that the Governor agreed to an investigation they now needed to stop.

 

I know Senator McCain is now running on a political platform of “change.”  Leave aside how he’ll fight to change what he’s voted to do to this country for the last 8 years.  If you ask me, the only thing he’s changed so far is Governor Palin’s position – her decision to cooperate with this once-small investigation. 

 

This is one of those cases where there’s a clear truth.  It’s a clear truth – about a bi-partisan investigation – that I hope McCain’s operatives will ultimately fail at spinning into a “partisan” plot against his running mate.

 

To get their way, and prevent sworn testimony from leaking out on what I suspect was probably a minor breach by Governor Palin, McCain’s operatives have come to Alaska to add invective in a state where people generally get along.  They’ve chosen to vilify: 1) one of the state’s most respected public officials, Senator Hollis French; 2) the state’s most respected law enforcement official, Walt Monegan; and 3) a highly respected former DA and Victims Rights advocate a legislative committee voted 12 – 0 to hire to conduct the investigation, Steve Branchflower. 

 

It’s the ghost of Karl Rove.  Say something untrue enough times – like that Al Qaida is training with Saddam Hussein’s help – and people will believe it.  Not this time.  I’m not sure if I mentioned a few important facts.

 

Did I mention that no one ever attacked the Troopergate investigation by Alaska’s Legislature – started long before Governor Palin was placed on McCain’s ticket – until August 29?  That was the day Governor Palin joined the McCain bid for the White House. 

 

Did I mention that before the McCain camp got involved, the Governor stated of the Legislative investigation:  “That being the route they choose, so be it.  I’m happy to comply, to cooperate.” (KTUU.com, July 24, 2008).  She repeatedly stated she’d comply, and that it was the right thing to do.

 

Did I mention the personal attacks against our local public officials only started after Sen. McCain sent his flacks up to our small state on August 29?  They came with a mission to make America believe a Republican-initiated investigation, started with a unanimous committee vote of 8 Republicans and 4 Democrats, was a “partisan” plot.  That’s only a tough sell if people know the facts.

 

Did I mention they now claim the Legislature cannot legally proceed with an investigation into government misconduct (I thought Republicans didn’t like attorneys who made frivolous arguments), and that they are threatening to to go to court to stop it?   The Governor’s attorneys started writing those letters on – you guessed it – August 29.  Before then they agreed the investigation was proper.

 

Oh, and what about this.  Last week the McCain camp put our Governor in a bizarre position.  They told her to file an ethics complaint against herself!  Yup, again after her VP nomination.  Too weird?  What’s behind this move?  You guessed it.  Lawyers.  

 

To create the legal argument that the Legislature cannot investigate government misconduct, the McCain team has had her file a complaint against herself before something called the State Personnel Board.  That’s a 3 member group of Republican Gubernatorial appointees – that, if it started this week, wouldn’t get an investigation done, and reported to the public, until after the November election.  Convenient.

 

Hmmm.  The Legislature has announced they’d have their investigation done – if witnesses would cooperate like they were until August 29 – by October 10.  I can’t imagine why the McCain camp would prefer an investigation that doesn’t get finished until after November.  Any ideas?

 

So what about the claim that this investigation is some sort of partisan plot against a Republican ticket?  A legislative committee of 8 Republicans and 4 democrats asked former Assistant District Attorney Hollis French, a Democrat – to hire a legislative investigator in July.  He did.  He’s not doing the investigation.  So the complaint that he’s a Democrat who supports Barack Obama  is, well, weak.  He’s a Democrat who supports Barack Obama, who was appointed before Governor Palin was a VP candidate.  More importantly, he’s a Senator who has the confidence of a majority Republican Senate. 

 

He once said to the press the results of the investigation are likely to be troubling.  He shouldn’t have said that.  But the Governor’s said it too.  The newspapers have said it.  We all know it.  The public record already contains evidence that the Department of Public Safety was contacted roughly 20 times by Palin senior staff, and her husband Todd, about firing Trooper Wooten.  The Governor has conceded that based on this evidence, the public could conclude the Department could have felt pressure from above to fire Trooper Wooten.

 

The investigator, Steve Branchflower, is a former DA and Office of Victims Rights head (a job he was appointed to by a Republican Legislature).  He’s actually conducting the investigation.  Attacking Senator French doesn’t really work if he’s not investigating the case, or making any findings.  So the McCain folks have attacked Mr. Branchflower.  And they’ve tried to stop him from issuing subpoenas to the witnesses now directed not to talk.  Today the McCain folks suffered a setback.  A bi-partisan committee of Republicans and Democrats authorized Mr. Branchflower to move ahead to subpoena those witnesses.

 

And for good measure – the McCain folks are attacking Walt Monegan – the Public Safety Commissioner Governor Palin fired.  The Troopergate investigation involves claims that Monegan was fired for not agreeing to fire Trooper Wooten, the Governor’s brother in law involved in a very ugly custody dispute with the Governor’s sister. 

 

I don’t begrudge the Governor for not liking her brother-in-law.  I don’t really like him either, from what I’ve read.  I do begrudge those who’d attack Commissioner Monegan, a quintessential public servant who’s worked for both Republican and Democratic heads on the state and local level. 

 

These three public servants deserve better.  What they’ve received so far, is a little dose of ugly Washington politics in a state where we don’t see that stuff too often.

 

I stood on the sidelines when this investigation started.  When Governor Palin fired Commissioner Monegan, my advice was to end the flap and just hire him back. He does good work.  He’s well respected.  Unfortunately, my advice sometimes isn’t that good, and the Governor didn’t agree.

 

Then McCain’s staff of outsiders came to town.  And they began to launch personal attacks on people I respect.  They started proving that the same old politics that have caused dissatisfaction with Washington insiders these past 8 years are going to be the bread and butter of the McCain campaign.  

 

So – here I am today.  I support an Obama presidency because he shares a vision I believe in.  I’ve publicly supported him since the race started last year.  I also think Governor Palin originally did the right thing in agreeing to take some small lumps by proceeding with a legislative investigation Republicans and Democrats, and much of the public asked for.   

 

But unfortunately Alaska is the bull’s eye in a national presidential race today.  When told by the McCain folks that she needed to change her position, she did, as a loyal running mate.  I understand that.

 

As an Alaskan I’m not really angry at our Governor for this mess.  I do blame John McCain for the ugliness he’s brought to our state this week.   His folks have come to my small state to attack my friends, and people I respect, for political gain.  In my book, that’s not OK.  We all mess up time to time.  But this crosses the line. 

 

In small states, like small towns, people who act like the McCain folks apologize.  Until that happens, I’ll keep defending 3 public servants who deserve better.

 





Breaking Stories on KUDO Radio.

8 09 2008

Looks like it’s going to be another good day to tune in to the live feed from KUDO radio, here in Anchorage. The show Cutting Edge, with host CC will air from 3-6pm Alaska Time. That’s one hour earlier than PST, four hours earlier than EST.

Today, they’ll be dishing some good dirt.

On the show, Representative Les Gara is goint to talk about how “McCain’s people are coming after Senator Hollis French“. French is the legislator who is heading up the ongoing Palin ethics investigation.

Republican representative John Coghill said in a letter to the chairman of the Alaska Legislative Council that comments made by Hollis French concerning Palin and the “troopergate” probe were political.

Coghill, a preacher who is a staunch supporter of Palin, said French’s comments that the inquiry into Palin’s dismissal of Alaska’s public safety commissioner could form an “October surprise” indicated he was not neutral.

Also in the show, John Cyr, the Executive Director of Public Safety Employees (PSEA) will talk about the ethics complaint that was recently filed against Palin by the union, alleging improper use of information from the personnel file of Alaska State Trooper, Mike Wooten – the ‘trooper’ in ‘Troopergate’.

They love hearing from out of state callers, so feel free to call in and ask questions, or share your views, even if you’re not from Alaska.

FOR THE LIVE FEED, CLICK HERE.   To call in, the number is 907-569-1080





Palin on the Honor System. No Subpoena. Yet.

5 09 2008

Alaska legislators are preparing to issue subpoenas as part of an investigation into Gov. Sarah Palin’s handling of the “Troopergate” affair, but Palin herself won’t be hit with one.

State Sen. Hollis French, the Anchorage Democrat who is managing the probe into Palin’s firing of her former public safety commissioner, said legislators decided not to subpoena Palin as a gesture to calm what has become a tense standoff between the Legislature and the newly minted Republican vice presidential nominee.

“We’re trying to de-escalate the situation. We just want the truth, clear the air,” French said.

However, legislators still want their investigator to interview Palin.

Hollis French, who was just interviewed on KUDO progressive talk radio in Anchorage said, “The governor says she will cooperate, and we have no reason to disbelieve her.  She’s said it 6, 7, 8 times.  She’s said it so many times, it seems illogical that she wouldn’t show up.”  When asked what would happen if she did refuse to testify, he said, “We’ll have to cross that bridge when we get to it.”  (*Note to Senator French – Please…no bridge metaphors.)

French also expressed disgust at Frank Baily, the Palin staffer who refused to show up for his scheduled deposition, noting that he’s currently on paid administrative leave and is “making $78,000 a year while he sits home,” refusing to testify and winning the prize for most irritating use of government funds in the state of Alaska.

State Senator Johnny Ellis (well respected and bipartisan) also made an appearance on KUDO, and stated that he firmly believed that no vetting process had happened.  He was in contact with anyone who’s anyone in Republican circles, and no one was contacted about anything.  Only Palin’s lawyer has claimed to have been contacted by the McCain camp, but never specified whether it was before or after she was selected.  He wrapped it up by saying that he felt if we asked ourselves the question in our heart of hearts, no matter how we may feel about Palin personally, she is definitely not qualified to be the commander in chief, and leader of the free world.





Legislature Steps Up Palin Ethics Investigation.

5 09 2008

Hollis French and Sarah Palin - Photo from AP

If you’re marking your calendar with upcoming Alaska political scandal “Dates to Remember”, it’s time to get out your eraser. The release date of the Palin ethics investigation has moved…but not in the direction you may think.

ABC News has exclusively learned that Alaska Senator Hollis French will announce today that he is moving up the release date of his investigation into whether Gov. Sarah Palin abused her office to get the Alaska public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, fired. The results of the investigation were originally scheduled for release Oct. 31 but will now come almost three weeks earlier, according to sources.

Friday is obviously a big news day up here in Alaska. And now, the latest on the jousting match between teams French/Branchflower and Palin/Van Flein. The Palin/Van Flein strategy has been to stall, stonewall, dig in their heels, grit their teeth, throw grenades, light fires, and jump in the bunker. It seems to be meeting with limited success.

Despite Palin filing an ethics complaint against herself to force an investigation by a friendly self-appointed board, the Legislature, under the leadership of Democrat Hollis French, chair of the judiciary committee, marches on. It remains to be seen how they will pull this off, but subpoenas must be just around the corner, because both Frank Bailey (the Palin staffer whose phone call to Troopers was recorded), and Sarah Palin who originally said she’d be completely cooperative, have refused to testify.

Also, Republican Rep. John Coghill is now asking for Hollis French to step down from his leadership role stating that because he’s used the word ‘impeachment’ more than once, and has stated he feels the whole thing will be ‘damaging’ for her, he is no longer impartial.