Election Update from Rep. Les Gara

9 11 2008

It’s been a delightfully slow news day here on the Mudflats. It’s cold and grey, and at 5:00 Alaska time, the pale orange sun has set over Cook Inlet. So it was nice, on this quiet, lazy day, to get a message from one of our favorite Mudflatters, and one we haven’t heard from in a while, Representative Les Gara. No gripping press releases or dragon slaying this time….just a nice election update.

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I thought I’d offer you the kind of election analysis you just can’t buy.  Mostly because it’s not worth that much. 

The Mark Begich-Ted Stevens race remains too close to call, and word is we might have some new numbers soon.  My good friend Ethan Berkowitz (we’ve been friends from long before either of us stumbled into politics) has an outside chance of closing his gap against Congressman Don Young, but the gap in that race is pretty substantial right now.  And we have a roughly half dozen State House and Senate races with less than 200 vote differences that could change too.

Also – Friday the State Senate organized a bi-partisan coalition across party lines (applause); but the House Republicans have so far declined offers to do the same (no applause).  We’re still working on them, but right now it’s a 22 Republican, 18 Democrat, with 5 House races still to be decided.  I think the news story that the Republicans have closed the door on a bi-partisan coalition was as premature as the decision by the Republican leadership was unwise.  We’ll see if the newspaper got this one wrong.  At least they should have done a little investigation before simply repeating the press release they received from Republican House members yesterday.  Don’t get me started on the state of our newspapers – where staff has been cut so much that “he said she said” stories, and stories that just take politician statements at face value, have become too common.  Anyway – many of my colleagues and I are still promoting a bi-partisan coalition in the House.  It’s an uphill, but worthy effort.

Closest to home – I need to announce that I beat no one. Don’t worry (or celebrate, depending on your views). I didn’t lose. It’s just that no one ran against me (I did have an opponent in the August Primary). The good news – or at least what I’ve emphasized for my mother – is that I got something like 95% of the vote. The bad news is that 5% either didn’t feel like filling out their ovals, or decided, um… Maybe it’s better if I don’t think about that.





Prominent Alaskans Demand an Apology from the McCain-Palin Campaign.

1 11 2008

One of the most interesting things about living in Alaska is that you get a true appreciation of how large and how small it is – large geographically, and small socially.  The fact that there are so few people means that it’s almost impossible to spend a day doing errands without running in to someone you know, it’s common to find out that two of your unrelated friends actually know each other, and that engaged citizens can really affect positive change in the political process.  Another consequence of this “smallness factor” is that those who hold public office, and do a good job, become very well respected in the community.  Everyone knows who they are, and when they have something to say, people listen.

People generally respect one another here.  You learn quickly that you’d better treat people well or it might come back to haunt you. The guy you just told off will undoubtedly end up being your kid’s soccer coach, or the guy who pulls over to help you change a tire when it’s 20 below zero.  The woman that just made you land on the horn in traffic is undoubtedly going to be standing next to you in line wherever you’re going, or will be serving you your lunch.

This is why Alaskans, regardless of their political affiliation, watched in horror as Megan Stapleton (former local newscaster turned Palin spokeswoman) and attorney Ed O’Callaghan (an ‘outsider’ hired by the McCain campaign) started giving press conferences, calling themselves the “Truth Squad”.  The Truth Squad’s purpose it seemed, was to sully the reputation of former Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan.  According to the independent investigator hired by the Alaska State Legislature, Palin abused her power in his firing.  She wanted Monegan to fire her ex-brother in law, an Alaska State Trooper who she felt had wronged her family.  Monegan couldn’t legally act, because the matter was already closed.  Palin fired him anyway. 

It was either going to play out in the media that Palin abused her power, or that Monegan deserved it.  So the Truth Squad got to work, and they broke the cardinal rule in Alaska – treat people well.   Monegan is well-loved, and respected across the board.  So, for Palin’s story to stick, the McCain-Palin campaign had to make this look like Monegan’s problem.  Enter the Truth Squad.  According to them, Monegan had a “rogue mentality”,  and he committed acts of “outright insubordination”.  Try to get a job in law enforcement if the Governor of the state has called you an “insubordinate rogue”.

So, when Representative Les Gara, in an epic piece of video footage, demanded that Meg Stapleton (former news anchor turned Palin spokeswoman) apologize to Walt Monegan, and the other Legislators that had gotten smeared by the “Truth Squad”, he wasn’t kidding.  This wasn’t some quaint, old-fashioned request, nor was it just a PR stunt.  He really did think she owed them an apology.  So did a lot of other Alaskans.

Now, two other prominent Alaska lawmakers have joined in the formal request for an apology.  Gail Phillips, former Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Chancy Croft, former Democratic President of the State Senate released a press release yesterday, that has already received wide coverage in the state, on radio and in today’s Anchorage Daily News.  This is one more thing that will be waiting on Governor Palin’s desk when she gets home.  It’s a good letter, and it sums up eloquently what many Alaskans feel.  Here it is reprinted, by permission, in its entirety:

October 28, 2008

Dear Senator McCain:

We are writing because we believe an apology is owed from your campaign to Alaskans and our former Commissioner of Public Safety, Walt Monegan. As former legislative leaders of both major political parties in Alaska, we haven’t always agreed upon political issues. However, we adamantly agree that Mr. Monegan, who is well respected in Alaska by people of all party affiliations, is owed an apology. The attacks against Commissioner Monegan for his role in administering a personnel issue, now known statewide as “Troopergate”, were unwarranted and wrong. Mr. Monegan is a former U.S. Marine, a front-line police officer, was Chief of Police in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city, served as our State’s Commissioner of Public Safety and served both Republicans and Democrats with professionalism and honor.

This summer Governor Palin fired Mr. Monegan as Commissioner, which was within her purview. However, in July, the Legislature, through unanimous action by the bi-partisan Legislative Council, voted to investigate Commissioner Monegan’s termination and whether his refusal to fire Trooper Wooten played a role in his termination. The investigation had nothing to do with your campaign.

After Governor Palin was named as your running mate, your campaign stepped into the fray. In an effort to discredit and stop the bi-partisan legislative investigation into whether or not Governor Palin acted improperly in seeking the termination of her former brother-in-law, Trooper Wooten, your campaign engaged in a near-daily course of personal attacks against Mr. Monegan and members of the legislature. It’s obvious to many of us that you probably were not aware of these attacks by your campaign committee; however, since the final responsibility is yours, we feel Mr. Monegan is owed an apology from you.

In an effort to halt the bi-partisan investigation, your campaign staff tried to vilify Commissioner Monegan. Before Governor Palin was selected to your presidential ticket, she had agreed to the investigation; she publicly said it was justified and that she and her staff would cooperate with the investigation. She stated to the press that the public had a right to be concerned whether or not her administration may have placed improper pressure on the State Department of Public Safety to fire her former brother-in-law.

Following Governor Palin’s selection as your running mate, your campaign sent staff to Alaska to try to stop the investigation that Governor Palin had previously agreed to. Your campaign staff accused the legislative action as partisan in spite of the fact that the unanimous vote of the Legislative Council was bi-partisan.

Your campaign accused Mr. Monegan of being a “rogue”, of being insubordinate and other defamatory statements. To justify your involvement in this Alaskan issue and the Governor’s termination of Commissioner Monegan, your campaign continually changed the excuses for his termination. The various and changing excuses given by your campaign speaks clearly to the lack of credibility in its involvement.

Despite your campaign’s efforts to stop the investigation in court, and by public pressure, the investigation was recently completed. On October 10th the investigative report was released and the independent investigator, Steve Branchflower, concluded that the Governor had violated the State’s Executive Ethics statute by pressuring for the termination of Mr. Wooten from his position as an Alaskan State Trooper. The investigation also found that one of the probable reasons Commissioner Monegan was terminated was his refusal to fire the Governor’s former brother-in-law.

We acknowledge the authority the Governor has for terminating Commissioners; however, your campaign’s interference into this State matter and attempts to discredit Commissioner Monegan for campaign purposes is very troubling. Both the vilification of Mr. Monegan and the attempts by your campaign to stop the investigation were wrong.

We respectfully request an apology from your campaign to Mr. Monegan. He is a good man who has put his life on the line for Alaskans many times and he deserves better treatment from you and your campaign. Not only have the personal attacks from your campaign deeply affected and hurt the Monegan family, but also the people of Alaska who care and respect Mr. Monegan.

Sincerely,

Gail Phillips
Former Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives

Chancy Croft
Former President of the Alaska State Senate

Alaskans for Truth, the organizers of the huge rally in downtown Anchorage last month, and the organizers of the petition demanding the resignation of the Attorney General Talis Colberg for his botched handling of the Troopergate investigation, has issued a call to action.

They ask that any and all people, from inside or outside the state, who agree with the above letter, and are disgusted by the treatment of this decent, hard-working man who has served his country and his state with honor, please send a postcard to the McCain campaign adding your name to those respectfully demanding an apology for their behavior.  Then, let Alaskans for Truth know you did (alaskansfortruth@gmail.com).  It’s a small act, but it may help to restore something important that was taken from a good man.

Postcards can be sent to:

Honorable Senator John McCain
John McCain 2008
P.O. Box 16118
Arlington, VA 22215

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Les Gara and More on KUDO Today. UPDATED! (Mike Doogan)

24 10 2008

Apologies everyone.  Sounds like there has been a last-minute change.  Rep. Mike Doogan will be today’s guest on The Demo Memo.  Mike is a popular former columnist for the Anchorage Daily News, a writer of mystery novels, and a current Alaska state legislator.  He is always entertaining, and will likely have an interesting take on the events du jour.

Link and times are still the same!

“Cutting Edge” with CC on KUDO progressive talk radio in Anchorage will be well worth tuning in to today. Rep. Les Gara will be hosting “The Demo Memo,” and CC will be talking quite a bit about the latest Palin issues from an Alaskan perspective.

Les Gara is well-known to Mudflatters for his various acts of chutzpah during the Troopergate fiasco, for facing down the worst of the McCain “Truth Squad”, and for recently requesting that the Alaska AG Talis Colberg hire an independent investigator to look in to allegations of potential witness tampering in the Troopergate investigation now under review by the Personnel Board.

You can hear KUDO streaming live by clicking >>>HERE<<<

The show runs from 3:00 – 6:00pm Alaska time. (7:00-10:00pm EST, 4:00-7:00 PST)





Possible Investigation of Criminal Witness Tampering in Troopergate!

20 10 2008

Well, well, well. Here’s yet another subplot in the saga that is Troopergate. Remember how witnesses, including state employees, Todd Palin and Sarah Palin herself agreed to cooperate fully with the Legislative investigation of Troopergate? If you don’t remember, it’s because that was beFORE August 29th, when Palin was selected to be John McCain’s running mate. It was a whole different world back then. That’s when this investigation made sense to Alaskans, and when we believed the word of our Governor. Now? Not so much.

Ten witnesses, including the Governor’s husband Todd, defied subpoenas to testify before the Legislative Council. When did this mysterious change of heart occur?

Once again, we need to rely on the courage and conviction of the bipartisan Legislative Council, and the likes of Representatives Les Gara to keep the Governor and her administration (including Attorney General Talis Colberg) honest. After the flock of McCain lawyers descended on our sleepy little hamlet, all the rules changed. Now, Les Gara and Audie Holloway want to know WHY. Good question.

ANCHORAGE — Today an Alaska legislator called on the State’s Attorney General to appoint an independent investigator to look into possible criminal witness tampering by McCain-Palin campaign staff in Alaska. Rep. Gara’s call came at the suggestion of the Director of the Alaska State Troopers, [Col. Audie Holloway], who called the potential of witness tampering matter “serious.”

But, as we know, these witnesses did eventually testify in writing, just days before the Legislative Council released the findings of Independent Investigator Stephen Branchflower. Does this make it all better? No.

Their later decision to submit to written questions, after failing to show up for their subpoenas, doesn’t cure this violation, or any criminal conduct by any person who attempted to induce those witnesses from showing for their subpoenas. Complying with the law after breaking it doesn’t excuse a criminal violation. If any person attempted to induce a witness to fail to show for a subpoena, that witness’ later cooperation, after failing to show for the subpoena, doesn’t cure the criminal conduct. (from attached letter to AG Talis Colberg from Rep. Les Gara)

Talis Colberg, who is under considerable public pressure to resign as Attorney General for how he handled these subpoenas, has something new on his list of things that won’t go away. Namely:

Alaska Statute 11.56.545 –

“(a)Tampering with a witness in the second degree: A person commits the crime of tampering with a witness in the second degree if the person knowingly induces or attempts to induce a witness to be absent from an official proceeding, other than a judicial proceeding, to which the witness has been summoned. (b) Tampering with a witness in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.

AS 11.56.540 has similar elements, and is a felony.
The ball is in the court of the Department of Law.

Letter from Les Gara to Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg: 10202008-witness-tampering-independent-investigator

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Palin Returns to a Democratic Legislature in Alaska?! You Can Help Make it Happen!

16 10 2008

This message just in from Representative Les Gara. He’s taking a break from slaying dragons (Meg Stapleton) and fighting off hordes of invading barbarians (McCain lawyer Ed O’Callaghan and minions) to remind us about another front in the battle for Alaskan politics.

There are several close house races in Alaska this year that need some additional help. Whether it’s a long-held progressive seat that may be in trouble from the re-energized Palin base that will turn out in this election, or a bold newcomer that actually stands a chance of toppling a conservative seat…they need us. Two of them are names you’ll recognize as heros of the Legislative Council that voted to release the Troopergate report – Bettye Davis, and David Guttenberg!

Let’s send Sarah Palin back to Juneau to meet a shiny new Progressive Legislature!

if you are an Alaskan who wants to see your state head in a new direction, or if you are a friend from the Lower 48 who has become fond of our great state, and want to help, read on.

******************From Les Gara*****************************************

With your help we can win the close races we have this year, and win a Democratic majority in the Legistlature for the first time in two decades!

Please help today online at the HDCC website – HERE

This year is our best chance in two decades to win control of the 40-member state House. Democratic numbers have been increasing steadily in recent years: from 10 in 2000, to 12 in 2002 to 17 in 2006. We have an even stronger slate of candidates this year.

Anything you give will go straight to Democratic candidates and advertising, so please consider a donation…

Unless it’s OK that Republicans have used their power to block health insurance reform; block educational opportunity for Alaskans who need it (we’re one of only 10 states with no pre-K program); and block Alaskans from sharing in their state’s opportunity.

We need four seats to take the majority in the Alaska House of Representatives, and likely two seats to form a majority coalition.

Your help in the past has narrowed a Republican 28 – 12 majority to one where the margin is now 24-16. With your help we can keep moving forward, on health care reform, a real renewable energy policy in Alaska, better schools and early education, and a stronger university. We can stop the influence of special interests, and businesses who see the Legislature as theirs, not ours.
I appreciate all your help in the past, and hope you can help in any way you can afford.
Thanks very much!
And even though no money has changed hands, the Mudflats legal team tells me to include this, from Les’ original email: Paid for by the House Democratic Campaign Committee, 1241 W. 27th Ave. #562, Anchorage, AK 99503-2318)
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Keep in mind Lower 48 Mudflatters, that Alaska is a CHEAP media market! Even a small donation goes a LONG way!




Stapleton, This Town Ain’t Big Enough…

12 10 2008

A lonely tumbleweed blows down 4th Avenue in a little frontier town known as Anchorage.  The sun is cold, and yeller, and low in the sky.  A pair of bat-wing doors swings open.  A man in a white hat.   It’s the Marshall.  He’s cool and he’s tough, and he don’t take no guff from nobody.  The black hat waits outside, and in the street a crowd gathers.  They know what’s coming, and it ain’t gonna be pretty.  The Marshall has his prey in sight, and this town ain’t big enough for the both of them.  His eyes squint as he approaches the varmit.  There is no sound but the clink clink clink of spurs. Their eyes lock, as the crowd presses in. There’s fixin’ to be a fight.

Marshall (Representative) Les Gara doesn’t like how varmit (Palin mouthpiece) Meg Stapleton has been talking about some of the respected townsfolk, like (former Commissioner of Public Safety) Walt Monegan, (Rep.) Hollis French, (Independent Investigator) Steve Branchflower, and (Rep.) Bill Weilechowski. No, he doesn’t like it at all. *squint*

The dust blows…. He confronts Stapleton head on. He wants one thing, and one thing only. *spits tobacco* An apology…

Intermission. Get popcorn.

Stapleton, you no account sidewinder…you’ve crossed the good people of this town for the last time.  You got ’til sundown to get out.





The Truth About Palin and Darfur.

6 10 2008

Sarah Palin talked big with claims of her administration’s leadership role in an attempt to divest Alaska holdings from Darfur. Sound too good to be true? Guess why. Here’s the real story from (D) Rep. Les Gara, who filed legislation cosponsored by (R) Rep. Bob Lynn to require Alaska to divest from companies supporting the genocide in Darfur.

Les didn’t even get to hear the last half hour of the VP debate, because as soon as Palin dropped her little bomb about Darfur and how she “called for” divestment as soon as she found out about it, his phone started ringing off the hook with people saying, “HUH?”.

Palin’s Debate Claim Not Accurate That She Opposed Darfur Investments When She First “Found Out” About Them

Documents Show Palin Administration Supported Investments in

Businesses Linked to Darfur Genocide Until March, 2008

“When I and others in the legislature found out we had some millions of dollars in Sudan, we called for divestment through legislation of those dollars to make sure we weren’t doing anything that would be seen as condoning the activities there in Darfur.”
Sarah Palin, Oct. 2, 2008, VP Debate.


Anchorage, AK – During last week’s Vice Presidential debate, Governor Palin stated that once she “found out” that her state’s large investment funds held stock in companies linked to the Darfur genocide, she worked to divest from them, in a stand against Sudan’s brutal genocide. Dozens of other states have divested from companies linked to the government-sponsored genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region.The facts show the Governor did not in fact take a stand on this issue when she “found out” about it. A recently discovered 2006 letter, other documents, and records of legislative committee testimony show the Palin Administration opposed efforts by Alaska legislators to pass a Darfur divestment bill until near the end of the 2007-2008 legislative session.
These documents (linked below) show Governor Palin was asked by members of Congress to divest from Sudan’s genocide-related companies in November of 2006. Records show her Administration was asked again to divest through 2007, that this issue was discussed in Alaska’s media, and that her Administration opposed legislation to divest from these companies through February of 2008.
“The Administration’s opposition to our divestment legislation was one of the reasons we couldn’t get the bill passed. I do appreciate that they eventually dropped their opposition. But in fairness, they didn’t do anything to help when they found out about this problem,” said Alaska State Rep. Les Gara (D-Anch.), who filed legislation in 2007 with co-Sponsor Rep. Bob Lynn (R-Anch), to require Alaska to divest from companies implicated in the Darfur genocide.The following documents demonstrate the Palin Administration was asked to join the divestment effort in November of 2006, and opposed divestment efforts through February of 2008:

1. In November, 2006, members of Congress wrote personally to the Governor to ask that she join other states in divesting their assets from companies implicated by the human rights community in the Darfur genocide.

(Nov. 2006 Letter To Palin).

2. In 2007 the Alaska press started covering the public effort to get Alaska to divest from genocide-implicated companies doing business in Sudan.

(Dec, 2007 Alaska NBC News Story On divestment Effort).

3. In December 2007, members of the Save Darfur Coalition Met with the Governor’s office, without success, in an effort to gain support for divestment.

(Save Darfur Coalition Meeting With Governor’s Office, December, 2007).

(Bill Press release, January, 2008)

4. The Palin Administration testified in opposition to divestment from companies implicated in the Darfur genocide. On February 9, 2008, the Alaska Legislature’s House State Affairs Committee held its first hearing on Rep. Lynn & Gara’s HB 287. The Palin Administration and the Permanent Fund Corporation testified against the bill. Brian Andrews (since deceased), Deputy Commissioner of the State of Alaska, Department of Revenue, testified on behalf of the Palin Administration. This testimony helped kill this bill, with 4 members of the Governor’s Republican party stating their opposition to the bill (Reps. Bob Roses, Craig Johnson, Kyle Johansen and John Coghill). The bill never left this committee, and died when the legislative session ended on April 12, 2008. Deputy Commissioner Andrews testified at length against divestment from Sudan, and stated in part: “[T]he desire to make a difference is noble, but mixing moral and political agendas at the expense of our citizens’ financial security is not a good combination.”
(Feb 9, 2008 House State Affairs Committee testimony Minutes).

(Juneau Empire Press Coverage).

5. Through February and March, 2008, the Save Darfur Coalition and Rep. Gara kept working to change the Administration’s position. The former held a rally on the capitol steps. “I was pretty angry at how lightly the Permanent Fund and Administration took this issue, and began pushing for meetings to convince them that investing in genocide was wrong,” said Gara. Rep. Gara’s office held meetings with both the Commissioner of the Department of Revenue, Pat Galvin, and Permanent Fund Corporation Director Mike Burns. In late March of 2008 the Commissioner of Revenue and Governor agreed to change course and support the divestment effort. On April 1 Commissioner Galvin testified in favor of a companion Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Hollis French (D – Anch.). But with 12 days left in the legislation session at that point, the bill never made it to the Senate or House Floor for a vote, and House Bill 287 never made it out of the House State Affairs Committee.





Rep. Les Gara on KUDO!

3 10 2008

Mudflats contributor and one of the White Knights of the Troopergate investigation, Democratic Representative Les Gara of Anchorage is going to be a guest on KUDO radio shortly!

Les has been an outspoken advocate of getting the truth out there, and getting the McCain campaign and their lawyers out of our Alaskan Department of Law.

Kathy Phillips is filling in for CC.  The show runs from 3-6pm Alaska time. (1 hour earlier than PST)

To listen, click HERE!

The call-in number is 907-569-1080





McCain Campaign Rewrites Alaska History.

30 09 2008

 

Every once in a while we hear tha sound of hoofbeats on the Mudflats….  Hark!   Is that…..a horse?  Why yes, it’s our trusty white knight Representative Les Gara galloping up to deliver his latest opinion piece on the Palin debacle.  He unfurls his scroll and reads…

 

Over the past few weeks we Alaskans have been scratching our heads over the interesting claims the McCain campaign has made about our Governor.  A lot of them have been news to us.  Governor Palin’s nomination to the McCain ticket has created unusual common ground for Alaskans.  Whether we support her or not, we’ve been furrowing our eyebrows a lot lately as we watch the McCain campaign re-write Alaska history.   

 

            As a legislator who’s both agreed and disagreed with Governor Palin, I know some of her positions are difficult to sell.  Some are not.  But to avoid that whole messy thing of explaining controversial positions, the spin doctors running the McCain campaign are doing what got George Bush elected.  Many campaigns spin in the gray areas, where the truth isn’t clear.  But the McCain campaign’s taken a page from Karl Rove, and decided to spin past the margins.  They’re pitching the verifiably false as true.

 

            During the August Republican National Convention, Alaskans heard for the first time that our Governor opposed a national symbol of federal pork, what folks in the Lower 48 call the “Bridges to Nowhere.”   We didn’t know that.  In her 2006 Governor’s campaign, when her opponents took the risk of telling boomers these two bridges might be too expensive – candidate Palin said she supported them – and said she’d work to get more Congressional money for them.

 

            Now the campaign has a new line, that Governor Palin “told Congress thanks, but no thanks” for this money.  That’s a problem.  See, she never could have said that.  Congress debated our Alaska’s request for $400 million in bridge money in 2004 and 2005, before Palin was elected Governor.   A national outcry against these projects, at a time when a Republican Congress was pushing pork over effective relief for Hurricane Katrina’s victims, forced Congress to re-write this earmark.  Alaska ultimately got the money in 2005, but the Congressional language requiring that we spend it on these bridges was deleted.  We said thank you.  Governor Palin never opposed this funding.  She never offered to return it when she took office in 2007. 

 

            Then there’s the claim by Senator McCain that our Governor has been a “maverick” fighting federal earmarks.  We didn’t know that either.  Alaska takes more federal earmarks per capita than any state in the country.  Governor Palin asks for them.  She, like her predecessors, happily accepts them.  Alaska’s budget contains hundreds of millions in earmark dollars.  Alaska politicians love earmarks, and campaign on their ability to get them.

 

            We also heard at the Convention that Governor Palin’s been a budget cutter.  But in Governor Palin’s two years as Governor state spending has gone up by 20%.  She did veto projects, and I supported those vetoes.  But after vetoes, there’s still been a 20% budget hike.   Depending on your views, a 20% spending increase might be defensible.  It’s not defensible to make people believe you cut the budget when you didn’t. 

 

            Here’s what else I know about my state.  We have the third worst children’s health insurance program in the nation.  The Governor wouldn’t support cost-effective measures to extend insurance to the 10,000 children of Alaskan working parents who cannot afford coverage.  She campaigned against a recent proposal to prevent large strip mines from spilling toxic chemicals into Alaska’s salmon waters – something that’s raised the ire of fishermen and Alaska Natives in remote Southwest Alaska communities.  Thirty-five to forty percent of our kids don’t graduate from high school, and we can’t convince Governor Palin to join the 41 other states that have accepted the science showing statewide pre-k education helps kids succeed when they don’t have other good options at home. 

 

            There are a lot of important issues to discuss this campaign.  They should be debated honestly.  So far, as Senator McCain’s joined Barack Obama’s call for change, he’s only succeeded at changing the truth.

 

We now return you to the McCain-Palin campaign already in progress.





Criminal Witness Tampering in Troopergate?

24 09 2008

Alaksa State Representative Les Gara (D) of Anchorage, just released the following press release, plus a big stack of supporting paperwork. Another shout out to Les Gara, who has been fearless and forceful about speaking up in this matter.

Here’s the press release in its entirety, and a link below to the .pdf file of the supporting documents and criminal statutes for those of you who just love document digging!

*********************

LEGISLATOR ASKS TROOPERS TO LOOK AT POSSIBLE WITNESS TAMPERING

Palin cooperation ended with VP nomination

ANCHORAGE — Today a State Representative called on the Alaska State Troopers to look into possible criminal witness tampering in the state’s bi-partisan legislative Troopergate investigation. Since Gov. Sarah Palin was named to the McCain ticket on Aug. 29, the McCain campaign has sent campaign workers to Alaska to obstruct this investigation.

“Until McCain campaign staffers flew to Alaska to stop this investigation, the Governor and her staff agreed to comply with what we all know is a bi-partisan investigation. After Aug. 29 the campaign started working to block this investigation, and witnesses began joining that effort by ignoring their subpoenas and risking jail time. Something obviously changed the minds of these witnesses after Aug. 29th,” said Rep., Les Gara (D-Anchorage), a State Representative and Former Alaska Assistant Attorney General.

Alaska’s witness tampering statutes prohibit any person from “inducing” a witness to fail to comply with a subpoena. Almost daily, McCain staffers have called press conferences and made efforts to stonewall the legislative investigation. Prior to Aug. 29 no witness had stated they’d refuse to comply with the investigation, and the Governor in fact promised she and her staff would comply.

Last week three witnesses, Palin Administration Officials Ivy Frye and Randy Ruaro, and Palin’s husband Todd, refused to show up for legislative subpoenas. Also, Attorney General Talis Colberg, whose office had agreed that another seven state employees would comply with the investigation, changed position and said they wouldn’t. Those seven witnesses have been subpoenaed and are scheduled to appear Friday before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees.

McCain operatives have spun this as a partisan investigation. The facts show otherwise. Both Committees voted for the subpoenas last week. Six Republicans and four Democrats voted in favor, and only two Senate members voted no. The investigation was started this summer before Palin was named to the McCain ticket, by a unanimous vote of eight Republicans and four Democrats.

The witness tampering statutes follow:

Alaska Statute 11.56.545 –

“(a)Tampering with a witness in the second degree: A person commits the crime of tampering with a witness in the second degree if the person knowingly induces or attempts to induce a witness to be absent from an official proceeding, other than a judicial proceeding, to which the witness has been summoned. (b) Tampering with a witness in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor. (Emphasis added).

AS 11.56.540 has similar elements, and is a felony.
Please see attachmed letter and statute for more details.
Click HERE for letter and statute.




New McCain Stall of Troopergate Investigation: Part Karl Rove, Part Laurel & Hardy.

17 09 2008
Here’s another great piece by one of our newest and most favorite Mudflatters, Alaska Representative Les Gara. He’s not only a great legislator, with a real insider’s perspective on the surreal world of the Alaska Legislature, but he’s a pretty entertaining read. Enjoy!
Since Monday the McCain camp has stepped up its personal attacks against Alaskans. They’ve continued their D.C.-style tactics against neighbors in this small state. The game plan is to find an excuse to stop our Legislature’s Troopergate investigation, and hide evidence McCain’s folks really don’t want to surface before November’s election. It’s been a little Karl Rove, and parts Laurel and Hardy. How else can you explain the following?
Last week the Attorney general’s office promised state witnesses would comply with subpoenas the Legislature issued last week. Tuesday the Governor’s Attorney General flip flopped, and announced that state witnesses wouldn’t comply because, well, and I’m paraphrasing here – he’s changed his mind. And in what has to be an idea hatched after a 4th Martini at Chilkoot Charlie’s, Governor Palin’s attorneys have filed a motion to dismiss the ethics claim she filed against herself two weeks ago. Yup. She really filed a complaint against herself. Tuesday she said she’s discovered, after a thorough investigation of herself, that she’s done nothing wrong. Does anyone know how to get a hold of Jon Stewart and Tina Fey?
It’s silly season up here in the far north, but this week’s moves are aimed at one thing: John McCain’s effort to find cover for being disingenuous. See, before Governor Palin’s nomination for the Republican VP spot, she did the honest thing. She admitted the evidence – of roughly 20 contacts between her staff and husband with Public Safety officials, seeking the firing of Governor Palin’s former brother-in-law – might lead a reasonable person to the conclusion that the she misused her office to fire a state employee. So when Alaska‘s Republican-led Legislature called for an investigation, she did the honorable thing and said she and her staff would comply. She denies any wrongdoing.
Things changed on August 29 when Governor Palin was added to the McCain ticket. Since then his handlers have told her she can’t testify. They don’t want the evidence in this case to come out. They don’t want her to testify under oath. They don’t want other witnesses to testify under oath. So they have engaged in daily maneuvers to attack, as disloyal to the McCain campaign, anyone who wants the investigation to move forward. They’ve now attacked two well respected prosecutors, and perhaps the state’s most highly regarded law enforcement official – the Public Safety Commissioner she hired, and then fired, Walt Monegan.
Every day this week McCain operatives have sung the same tune. Today a guy with an East Coast accent, who knows nothing about Alaska, stood in front of a McCain-Palin banner to lead the attacks against people he doesn’t know. At press conferences on Monday and Tuesday campaign staffer Megan Stapleton spit vitriol to repeat her argument that this investigation is really a “Democratic” attack on Governor Palin.
See, that’s easier than just saying their VP has reneged on her promise to testify. It’s easier than just saying they don’t want anyone testifying before the November election. It’s easier than admitting they are stonewalling a legislative investigation.
Here are a few things they failed to say. There are a few small facts that make it hard to style this as a Democratic investigation. One is that Alaska is a Republican State. We have a Republican Governor and a Legislature of 34 Republicans and 26 Democrats. This summer the Legislature’s Legislative Council voted 12-0 (8 Republicans and 4 Democrats) to hire an investigator, and appointed Democratic Senator Hollis French, a well-respected former prosecutor, to find an investigator. Governor Palin stated she and her employees would comply with the investigation. French then hired Steve Branchflower, a former DA who most recently was hired by legislative Republicans to run the state’s Office of Victims rights.
And on Friday the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 3-2 (2 Democrats and 1 Republican in favor); and the House Judiciary Committee issued a 7 – 0 (5 Republicans, 2 Democrats) advisory vote, to issue subpoenas to witnesses the McCain camp had previously stopped from testifying.
Over the last two days McCain’s outside operatives have vilified former prosecutor Hollis French – as an Obama supporter who must have called this investigation to hurt the McCain ticket. But French was appointed to oversee the investigation by a 12 – 0 Legislative Council vote, and is probably the state’s most respected legislator – by Republicans and Democrats alike. He’s so popular the Republican Party couldn’t find anyone to run against him this year.
They’ve called former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan – a Native Alaskan who has served Republican and Democratic Administrations with honor, and put his life on the line in uniform – “insubordinate.” Odd, given that when Governor Palin fired him she offered him a different job. I guess being “insubordinate” was a job requirement for the new position. And they’ve challenged the independence of an investigator and former DA, who has no animus anyone can find.
Those Swift boat ads taught the McCain folks that if you say something untrue enough times, it can stick.
My favorite moment of the week came when Governor Palin’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss Palin’s ethics complaint against herself. Stay with me. Her attorneys have been buying the peyote, not me. See, on August 29 they needed to find a way to stop the Legislature’s investigation. They tried asking the Republican leaders to call it off, and take one for the team. But the Senate President and others honorably said no. So they came up with an argument that the State Personnel Board – 3 people appointed by Governor Palin and her Republican predecessor Frank Murkowski – had “exclusive jurisdiction” to investigate wrongdoing by the Governor. The Legislature wasn’t amused. So Governor Palin then filed a complaint against herself.
That, they said, put “jurisdiction” in the hands of their friends at the Personnel Board. They argued that since the Personnel Board was now proceeding with an “investigation”, the Legislature couldn’t.
To put icing on the cake, on Monday the Governor’s attorneys moved to dismiss the Governor’s case against herself. They said, and I loosely paraphrase again – that they tried really hard and just couldn’t find any evidence that the Governor did anything wrong. OK. I can’t believe I just wrote that. And I wish it weren’t true.
These are the things you have to do when your Presidential candidate doesn’t want his VP to honor a promise, and doesn’t want evidence to come out before an election. These are the things you have to do if your folks aren’t going to comply with a subpoena. That’s because without spin the headline might read: “McCain Interferes With Investigation Palin Agreed To.” How easy it is to re-write a headline. They learned that during the Swift boat campaign too.
All we can hope for is that members of the press will remember what they learned in journalism school. Not to repeat the spin of political operatives without reporting the truth. Not to write “he said she said” stories, and pretend the truth is somewhere in the middle. But to report the facts. No matter how you spin it, Governor Palin promised to comply with this Legislative Investigation. McCain’s folks got her to change her position. And the Legislature that voted for the investigation did so on a bi-partisan basis. End of story. End of headline.
Over the next few days McCain’s folks will try to get local legislators to step in line, out of party loyalty, and reverse their vote to investigate Troopergate. But many local Republicans, like Senate President Lyda Green, have so far refused to play those politics.
Stay for more from McCain’s Campaign for “Change.” They’ve tried to change the truth. They’ve succeeded at changing Governor Palin’s promise to comply with this investigation. Let’s see what they’ll change next.
Thanks for really being out there on the Mudflats, Les. Hey, if this ‘being a great politician’ thing doesn’t work out, you’re always welcome here.




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.