Troopergate’s Strange Bedfellows.

22 09 2008

Alaska politics is making strange bedfellows these days. Last week Wasilla conservative Republican, and Alaska State Senate President Lyda Green spoke with KUDO, the progressive talk radio station. Green was one of Palin’s mentors at the beginning of her career. But years went by, and the two began to disagree. There were power-plays, and barbs thrown. Palin appeared on a conservative radio program in which the DJ said he was going to say what Palin couldn’t about Green. “She’s a B**ch!” Response from Palin? Giggling. “She’s a cancer!” More giggling. And yes, Lyda Green is a cancer survivor. Eventually, Green decided that she no longer could work for the Legislature while Palin was governor. Her constituents were rabidly pro-Palin and the writing was on the wall. So Green announced she would not be running for re-election in November. This was big news when it happened, back in the day when we weren’t in the national spotlight.

So Lyda Green, who was intensely disliked by the Democratic Party (although they never called her names on the air) made an I-have-nothing-to-lose appearance on KUDO. She came right out and said that the investigation should and would proceed, and that nothing had changed. We were seeking the truth when it all started, and we still are. What followed were calls of praise and admiration from the very ‘blue’ listening audience…. It was like something out of the Twilight Zone.

Now from the progressive community who normally wants to see his head on a pike,there’s another uber-conservative pundit who is engendering praise – Dan Fagan. Dan Fagan is a notorious right wing radio talking head, turned columnist in the Anchorage Daily News. The ADN is frequently criticized by the vast right-wing community in Anchorage as being a “socialist rag”. So they hired Dan Fagan, and now they can say “Well, what about Dan Fagan??” and cross their arms. Fagan frequently talks in matter-of-fact terms about “liberal bias” in the media, and now he has a “liberal media” nest in which to comfortably perch, and continue to do just that. And anyone unfortunate enough to walk under the nest will likely have a ‘deposit’ land on their head.

But there is one thing that Dan Fagan is not at the moment, and that is a Palin fan. If you’ll recall the emails from Sarah Palin’s hacked Yahoo! account that made it on the web, there was an exchange between Palin and her Lt. Governor Sean Parnell, bemoaning Fagan’s treatment of Parnell (a congressional candidate at the time) during his appearance as a guest on Fagan’s radio show. In Palin’s email response, she said,

“His fighting you reveals some evil stuff going on with him. Does he want someone OPPOSED to the life issue in Congress?”

“Evil?” Zounds! Fagan’s been called a lot of names, but I don’t think he’s ever been called ‘evil’. And, do we infer that Palin thinks that everyone out there who believes in reproductive choice has “evil stuff going on” with them?

This brings us to today. Fagan has come out with an interesting opinion piece in the Anchorage Daily News. Here’s a bit of what he had to say:

The real damage to Palin from Troopergate comes with an injury claim involving trooper Wooten when he hurt his back while in the line of duty.

Independent investigator Steve Branchflower testified recently he believes someone in the governor’s office tried to block Wooten’s workers’ compensation injury benefits.

Harbor Adjustment Services, the company hired by the state to process, evaluate and decide on workers’ benefit claims, had great financial incentive in bowing to pressure from the governor to deny Wooten’s injury claim.

Obviously, the state is Harbor Adjustment Services’ largest client. The owner of the company denies the governor’s office pressured her to deny Wooten’s benefits. Why wouldn’t she? Ratting out the governor could cost her the lucrative state contract.

But Branchflower says an employee with Harbor Adjustment Services contradicts the owner and has testified the governor’s office did apply pressure to deny Wooten his benefits.

Branchflower says the unnamed employee testified, “I don’t, you know, care if it’s the president who wants the claim denied. I’m not going to deny it unless I have the medical evidence to do that,”

We know the governor’s office was very interested in Wooten. Dianne Kiesel, a state employee with the Department of Administration, tells me former Palin chief of staff Mike Tibbles instructed her to walk Wooten’s personnel file over to the governor’s office.

And there is the governor’s aide, Frank Bailey, caught on tape admitting he has information that came from Wooten’s workers’ comp file.

The very file that includes pictures, taken by none other than Todd Palin, of Wooten riding a snowmachine trying to prove the trooper was not injured.

Here’s why this is all so damaging to the governor. It’s one thing to try to get a trooper fired because you believe he is a danger to the public. But using your considerable power as governor to block the benefits of a former family member you have a long-running dispute with moves this scandal into a new realm.

It becomes about one thing and one thing only, revenge. Not public good, but settling a score.

Fagan is correct in that this angle on Troopergate hasn’t been explored deeply. We get hung up on tasers, and ex-wives, and affairs, and ‘rogue cops’, but the thing that may stick, is Palin’s tampering with the worker’s compensation claim. With Al Capone, it was tax evasion…you just never know.

It was only a week or so ago that the unnamed employee from Harbor Adjustment Services came out with her information to investigator Stephen Branchflower’s “tip line”. And it has also only recently been revealed that part of the file includes photos of Wooten on a snowmachine, taken by Todd Palin while he was out collecting evidence to use against Wooten. Yes, at one point our “First Dude” Todd Palin was following Mike Wooten around to ‘get something’ on him.

John Cyr, the head of the PSEA (the Troopers’ union), who was interviewed extensively on Anchorage’s KUDO radio says that if those 1100 emails the Palin administration is withholding (claiming executive privilege) were released, they would show that Palin had used her office to keep tabs on Wooten. Cyr, who filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the documents was told it would cost $88,000 to fulfill his request. “That seems a little steep,” said Cyr, “and suspicious.”

19 days and counting until special investigator Stephen Branchflower’s report on his findings in this investigation.

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Destination Alaska. They’re Heee-eere.

3 09 2008

Alaska State Senate President, and Wasilla Republican Lyda Green

Our sleepy, uneventful state in the upper left corner of the continent has suddenly, strangely, become the center of the political universe. Tourist season is technically over, but media season has now begun, and has brought with it a host of outsiders.

First, is the belated McCain vetting team, that landed yesterday, presumably to fan out across the state, talking to Republican party officials, Palin insiders, and critics, to do some fact finding, damage control, and bargaining. Will Lyda Green, the State Senate President, fellow Wasilla Republican, and harsh Palin critic suddenly stop talking and become the next ambassador to Palau?

Then there’s progressive talk show icon Ed Schulz. He’s hosting a town hall meeting at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. A thousand Alaskans will cough up between $25 and $100 to stand before the microphone and tell the world exactly what they think of Sarah Palin. The show will be played back on September 15th. Should be interesting. And yes, I’ve got my tickets.

Next, are the folks from The Nation magazine. They know exactly what the McCain team is up to, and they will be doing damage control on the damage control, and reporting as much as possible on the back room dealings that are sure to be happening very soon.

And of course, the ultimate vetting team, The National Enquirer, is already here. Who knows, they may have even been here first. We don’t know. They work in mysterious ways. After the Edwards debacle, in which the Enquirer scooped the entire Main Stream Media, and gave themselves a peculiar sort of political ‘cred’, people will be listening closely to what they have to say. These are the folks who have no hesitation getting down in the dirt and asking all those questions that make the main stream media, and most bloggers cringe. It’s hard to draw the line between what’s off-limits and what can be used legitimately to illustrate judgment, and decision making ability. To the Enquirer, nothing is off-limits. They will be busy people… The newest rumors starting to get teeth involve Track Palin and 3 friends being arrested for vandalizing several school buses. Troopers showed up. And yes, this is Mike Wooten’s area. Bus-gate. And despite the admission that Bristol is pregnant, rumors that Trig is not Sarah’s baby persist.

Not used to being in the spotlight, or feeling like anyone is particularly interested in what we have to say, I’m sure there will be many Alaskans perfectly pleased to spill their guts to whoever asks a question. The media will have a field day. Whatever happens with the election, Alaskans will be talking about this for years.

Helpful hint: If any of the media wants to stay under the radar, they’d better not show up in suits, ties, or makeup. Dead giveaway.





Fellow Navy P.O.W. Speaks About McCain.

3 09 2008

Wow.

In addition to raising important issues of temperament, this also raises health issues that people may not be thinking about. My dad was a P.O.W., and I remember when he got ill during my childhood, my mother quoted his doctor as saying that after going through that experience, he “wouldn’t make old bones”. My dad passed away at 65. John McCain just turned 72.

McCain has said that sometimes he makes rash decisions, and that sometimes they come back to bite him, but he always takes responsibility and lives with the consequences. That’s nice, but what happens when it’s not just McCain, but the world that is asked to live with those consequences?

There has been lots of discussion about John McCain’s judgment in choosing Palin as a running mate. To be honest, I am still amazed that Sarah Palin actually accepted this position in the first place, and what it says about her judgment. I have mentioned before, that many Alaskans, including State Senate President Lyda Green (a long time critic of Palin) have questioned her qualifications to be governor. “She’s in over her head” was a common sentiment on the blog comments in the Anchorage Daily News well before the VP rumors began to swirl.

So, knowing that she was facing investigation, knowing that a significant chunk of Alaskans questioned if she was ‘over her head’, knowing that the media is ruthless in its ‘vetting’ process of candidates, knowing that Alaska is facing some pretty big issues of its own (new pipeline project), and knowing that every waking moment of her time will be spent trying to get up to speed while her family, her friends, and her town are put under a giant magnifying glass…she took it. Knowing that she has 3 school age children, a pregnant unwed teen and a special needs infant that will need a tremendous amount of love and care, she took it. Knowing that she’d only been out of the country once, in 2007, knowing that she held a journalism degree and has no foreign policy background or experience, and knowing that she’d have to be on national television debating Joe Biden, she took it. Knowing that historically, she has a statistical 1 in 3 chance of being the president of the United States by succession, not including the four bouts with skin cancer and the P.O.W. factor, she took it.

Would you have taken it? I’m guessing that most of us would think, “Are you kidding? No way!” And we would be right, and prudent, and we would be putting our country first.





Palin’s VP Prospects Circling the Drain

21 07 2008

After much speculation about what Sarah Palin actually meant when she said the reason she fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan was to take the department “in a new direction”, the governor has finally given us an explanation. Unfortunately, the explanation is feeble at best.  At worst, disingenuous.

Apparently the ‘new direction’ involves increasing recruitment and dealing with alcohol and substance abuse problems in the bush. ……ohh kay….. how is this different? And how was Walt Monegan not doing this? Palin’s “new direction” is basically a carbon copy of material released by Walt Monegan and Colonel Audie Holloway at the beginning of the year.  In other words, the new direction is the old direction.

So, what does this mean?  Several things, potentially.

  1. The ‘new direction’ is a lame attempt to explain why Monegan got fired, when, in fact, his firing had nothing to do with direction, and everything to do with not firing Palin’s ex-brother-in-law and Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten, despite being pressured to do so.
  2. The governor thinks we are not paying attention.
  3. The governor thinks we are not very bright.

So, what does the Legislature think of all this? Buckle your seatbelts Alaska, and prepare for…..another investigation.

Senate President Lyda Green (fellow Wasilla Republican and Palin arch-nemesis), and Senate Judiciary Chairman Hollis French  have said that an investigation is likely, and Senator Johnny Ellis stated this weekend, “There will be an inquiry. Any use of public position for personal use or gain is wrong. We will get to the bottom of it.”  Same story in the House.  And the House and Senate are talking about holding hearings regarding the Monegan firing.  It’s only a matter of time before the can is opened and the worms come out.

This investigation will have a slightly different flavor than the others to date. So far we’ve had investigations (with accompanying indictments and convictions) of state legislators, and of oil service execs. We’ve got investigations of our congressional delegation, and likely an ex-governor.  But now we’re going to have an investigation of not only a sitting governor, but a potential Vice Presidential candidate. Until now, Palin has been the darling of the right, and on McCain’s short list for VP running mate.   She’s cute, she’s tough, she wears red suits, she’s a social conservative, she’s pro-life, she’s a woman, she’s a hockey mom with 5 kids, and most of all she’s squeaky squeaky clean!  …  Uh oh.

Truth is, her reputation for sweeping the state clean of corruption, and restoring ethics and transparency to government was the foundation on which all those other things rested. Take that away, and  it all falls like a house of cards.  McCain isn’t considering her as a running-mate to secure Alaska’s three electoral votes, that’s for sure.  He wants her image. And now, that image is sullied, which means right about now her chances for the VP nod are circling the drain.  In this election, no one can afford to be linked to another corrupt Republican….least of all a corrupt Republican.

UPDATE:  The Anchorage Daily news has linked to an interview with Walt Monegan that aired today on KUDO 1080-AM.  More discussion on KUDO was promised for tomorrow.

UPDATE #2 8/29/08:

Let me be the first to say I was wrong.  The choice of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s VP running mate proves how foolish I was for imagining that the Republican’s weren’t that stupid!





Another One Bites the Dust – Cowdery Goes Down.

14 07 2008

Take a week off and see what happens?!  John Cowdery is the latest member of the Corrupt Bastards Club to taste the bitter pill of come-uppance from the FBI raid of Alaska legislators’ offices in 2006.  Has it been two years already?  Almost, according to the “Alaska Corruption Scandal Timeline.” The fallout from that legendary raid seems like one huge, glacially slow soccer game.  We get a goal once every six or eight months.

This also goes to prove that my semi-reliable friend of a friend of a coworker who heard a rumor that Ben Stevens was the next to drop, was wrong… grumble, grumble.  I’ve been on “Ben Watch” since June 1st, fueled by this rumor that his indictment would come in the next 30 days.  But other than the fact that it was 40 days, not 30…and John Cowdery, not Ben Stevens…my source nailed it!

This latest indictment hits close to Senate Leadership.  The crowd is thinning out, and Lyda Green with fewer and fewer buddies around her, is standing in the middle of the field looking reeealy conspicuous.  After the indictment came down, and after finding out that among other atrocities, Cowdery told corrupt Veco executive Bill Smith he thought it would be “easy and clean” to bribe Senator Donny Olson (owner of Olson Air Services)  with gasoline for his airplanes to win a vote on the Petroleum Profits Tax, Governor Sarah Palin asked Cowdery to step down.  (*Note to Mr. Cowdery – Nothing involving petroleum products in Alaska is EVER easy OR clean)

But Senate President Lyda Green would have none of that ‘stepping down’ talk.  She said that she didn’t think Cowdery should step down from his senate seat.  Why?  Take this little Mudflats Quiz.

Q:  Lyda Green thinks that indicted Corrupt Bastard John Cowdery should stay in the Alaska State Senate for the following reason(s). Check all that apply.

a) He is a friend of hers.

b) He’s held that position for a long time.

c) He’s in bad health and hasn’t been there much lately anyway.

d) Give him a break. He’s at the end of his career soon.

e) Sarah Palin wants him to step down so I DON’T! Humph.

Mind-numbing as it is, Lyda’s official rationale, according to her quote in the Daily News includes A through D, but I’m going with All of the Above.

Cowdery is scheduled to appear in District Court on August 11th. 

And “Ben Watch” begins again.  Check out this awesome post from TPMMuckraker.  What will they ever do when all our scoundrels are behind bars?





Wicked Witch Breaks Crayons. Goes Home.

13 06 2008

Senate President Lyda Green (the Wicked Witch of Wasilla) has pulled a surprise move last night, withdrawing her re-election bid. Seems she felt she had to step out because her constituents and fellow lawmakers didn’t agree with her oil and gas position, and were siding with (gulp) gov. Sarah Palin, her archnemesis and fellow Wasilla Republican. It was really the only right thing to do to maintain her personal integrity. Hmmm.

So, what’s the story behind the story?

One likely scenario is that Lyda, faced with a humiliating defeat from Palin supporter Linda Menard in the primary, did what any self-respecting petulant villain would do – broke her crayons and went home. That’ll teach ’em.

Scenario #2 is a little more intriguing. Any surprising political news involving unexpected fleeing, and unlikely explanations (particularly ‘ethical’ ones) must be looked at in terms of the current climate. I refer you to the giant black cloud overhead that is corruption, indictment, and involuntary relocation to housing facilities out of state. (The kind with bars on the windows).

Revelations may be on the way.  We can only speculate.

You know, as happy as I am to see her out of there, I was secretly hoping for a more dramatic playground battle. I wanted chalk throwing and secret alliances, after school detentions and someone getting sent to the principal’s office. But we’ll just have to settle for what we can get for now. There may be a trip to the principal’s office yet to come.

See Progressive Alaska’s take on things here.

UPDATE: SCENARIO #1 CONFIRMED. SCENARIO #2 NOT YET RULED OUT.

Seems that scenario #1 (humiliating defeat indicated in polls) is now being confirmed by Lyda Green herself.  This does not necessarily rule out scenario #2.  The Anchorage Daily News adds a fascinating dimension to this stating that Lyda is feeling philosophical about the whole thing and looking forward to dedicating some time to her “passion for making decorative pillows and purses”.   Who knew?