Palin is Lawyered Up and Ready to Joust.

2 09 2008

Take a few hours off, and see what happens? Apparently it’s not possible to blink these days without missing the latest bit of Palin drama. While I was out snapping photos of the governor’s home town of Wasilla and its environs, the state of Alaska was busy running an errand for Sarah – finding her a lawyer. Yes, she’s lawyered up. And the sparks are flying already.

It all goes back to Troopergate. If you need to consult the Troopergate Primer, go HERE. We’ll wait….

Now, we’d like to welcome our newest player to the growing cast of characters in our little drama – Thomas Van Flein. Mr. Van Flein (don’t you just have to say that with an accent?!) has been hired to represent Palin in the upcoming legislative investigation into the firing of Commissioner Walt Monegan.

“But wait!” you may be asking, “What about the state Attorney General? Why can’t he handle this?” Why not AG Talis Colberg? Well, he’s the one that Palin sent out to do a pre-emptive sleuthing campaign to see what the Legislature was going to find out when they investigated her. Just so she’d have a heads up. So now Colberg, who has already been talking to everybody and his uncle about the Trooper, including Walt Monegan, has now opened himself up to being called as a witness! So he’s out. (And incidentally, he’s also going to take over the role of Governor of Alaska should Palin end up as the VP, and her Lt. Governor Sean Parnell win his bid for Alaska’s sole House seat. My head hurts).

Now that John McCain has gotten his mits into this mess, the McCain/Palin campaign has put together a four-page statement saying that her husband Todd Palin and members of her administration had simply inquired “about the appropriate Department of Public Safety procedures for dealing with someone they considered a dangerous person and rogue trooper.” No pressure, just simple friendly inquiries. BUT, they say, keep in mind that Sarah Palin herself only became aware of her husband’s and all those other people’s ‘inquiries’ very recently, long after they were made. Because married people don’t talk about things like exacting vengeance on dastardly ex-brothers-in-law (on whom they’ve filed dozens of complaints) with each other. Todd did it all on his own. That rogue!

Here’s where the gloves come off. Van Flein, Palin’s new lawyer, says that the state legislature shouldn’t be handling the investigation at all. It would be much better, he says, if the state Personnel Board (a three person board appointed by Sarah Palin herself) did the investigation. And Van Flein also asked for all witness statements, documents and other materials collected in the course of the legislature’s investigation.

Hollis French, the state senator, and former state prosecutor who is heading up the investigation said, “No.” and “No.” French reminded Van Flein that Palin has been saying she has nothing to hide all along, and is Palin aware that Van Flein seems to be questioning the legislature’s legitimacy? (That was the first No.) Then he said that Palin had sent the Attorney General out to do the dirty work of talking to all the witnesses first anyway, so go get the information from him. And he told Stephen Branchflower, the real investigator, not to give any info to Van Flein. (Second No.)

Palin and Van Flein vs. French and Branchflower. Doesn’t that sound like some kind of epic medieval jousting match? Good analogy.

Van Flein saddles up. He says, “Our concern is that Hollis French turns into Ken Starr and uses public money to pursue a political vendetta rather than truly pursue an honest inquiry into an alleged ethics issue.”

OHHHHH. Name calling metamorphosis imagery and conservative hot button issue! FOUL for Van Flein!

And now French galloping at full speed…. “How does Van Flein explain the unanimous vote (to pursue the investigation of Palin) by the Republican-dominated Legislative Council?” OUCH! Van Flein is off the horse. Boy that had to hurt.

OK, now Branchflower is ready to take on Palin for some questioning. But…where is Palin? Is Palin in the house? (looking around) Ohh that’s right…busy with that Vice Presidential thing.

Van Flein, dusting himself off, pipes up: The investigation is “bad timing” in the middle of a presidential campaign!

Methinks the presidential campaign is “bad timing” in the middle of an investigation. But that’s just me.

BREAKING NEWS 9/2/08 4:35 LOCAL TIME:

Palin has just released documentation indicating that she will attempt to scuttle the investigation by the Legislature and steer it to the control of the State Personnel Board, a 3-member board that Palin herself appointed.  The stall tactics begin.  The McCain campaign does NOT want a Legislative investigation, and they don’t want the results of that investigation to come 5 days before the election as it is scheduled now.  More shenanigans to come, I’m sure.





Reaction to Palin’s Nomination from State Rep. Mike Doogan.

31 08 2008

Here’s a great reaction to the Palin nomination from Alaska State Representative Mike Doogan:

…But debating foreign policy with Joe Biden? What’s she going to do? Hit him with her briefing book? If Palin has two thoughts about foreign policy, she’s managed to keep them to herself. Ditto health care. National energy policy. Fiscal policy. You could make a long, long list, but I’ll stop there. She’s going to need a lot of handlers feeding her a lot of talking points, and she’s going to have to hope that the discussion only goes about yay-deep.

She’s also going to have to hope that the national media is as pliable as Alaska’s has been. Palin doesn’t like people criticizing her, and she’s as competitive as any linebacker you ever met. If the campaign gets a little rough and tumble, that could be a bad combination.

So she could be great as a candidate. Or so so. Or blow up on the pad. But if the McCain-Palin ticket should win? Yikers. There’s no way on God’s green earth that she’s prepared to be president of the United States. The only consolation for me is remembering that J. Danforth Quayle once held the job she’s trying to get, and the world didn’t end.

But Sarah Palin?

Really?

Read it all HERE at Alaskan Abroad and check out the rest of the blog for more good info.





Palin Investigates Self in Innovative Winning Strategy.

13 08 2008

It’s good to start the day with a chuckle…and there are chuckles aplenty in the latest hilarious hijinks of our wacky governor Sarah Palin. We discovered last month that the Legislature would be conducting an investigation of the controversial firing of DPS chief Walt Monegan. That little debacle had everything – drama, revenge, infidelity, abuse of power, intimidation, drunk driving, child custody issues….and on and on. It was nice, frankly, to have a little respite from the slime; a time of cleansing; a mental sorbet. Now it’s time for the next course.

This one, although equally serious, has the feel of lighthearted satire. Here’s the deal:

After the Monegan debacle, Palin said she welcomed an investigation, had nothing to hide and was completely innocent. A few days later, backpedaling, said there really didn’t need to be an investigation and that she was willing to answer all questions she was asked. But the Legislature proceeded.

Retired state prosecutor Steven Branchflower was hired by the Legislature to investigate Palin and her administration regarding the Monegan firing. Here’s where we enter the land of the absurd.

Palin (aka ‘the accused’) decided that she didn’t want to wait for the investigation to begin. She’d rather know ahead of time what would be uncovered by the Legislature’s investigation. That would make things much nicer for her…. you know, eliminating the element of surprise, and having a heads up. What to do… (lightbulb goes off)

The solution? She directed the Alaska State Attorney General, Talis Colberg to investigate FIRST, and include interviews with Department of Public Safety employees. The accused’s ‘investigation of self’ apparently began in July, and interviews started on August 4th. The AG refused to say who was interviewed or how many interviews were conducted. Meanwhile, Branchflower has not even started the Legislature’s official investigation yet.

Go ahead, chuckle. I did.

Predictable reactions?

Jay Ramras (chair of the House Judiciary Committee:

“I think it is harmful to the credibility of the administration, harmful to the process and harmful to all the parties involved. It’s just the worst possible thing to be doing.”

John Cyr, executive director of the troopers union:

“It’s an abuse of her office” for Palin to involve the attorney general.

Legislators and Alaska citizens who have an ounce of common sense:

“Ummm. Witness intimidation? Witness tampering? Misuse of the Attorney General? Misuse of state resources? Are you kidding me???”

Governor’s spokeswoman Sharon Leighow:

No comment. Talk to the Attorney General.

The Attorney General Tallis Colberg:

“We’re commited to trying to cooperate as best we can…”

I just love that. This has become a catch phrase in the Palin administration…”committed to try”. Now that’s REAL commitment.

The governor’s justification for launching this preemptive investigation? Representative Hollis French told the Wall Street Journal that a worse-case scenario might be impeachment. Yeah….and? Apparently even acknowledging that this WAS the worst-case scenario had the administration in a tizzy. Palin and her hench-people figured that this was the winning strategy.

Time, once again, to sit back and watch the fallout.





Sarah-Gate Goes National.

22 07 2008

Finally!  Sarah Palin’s scandal gets picked up by the National Blogosphere. 

Here’s the link to Daily Kos,  and TPMMuckraker links to the Daily News article about the investigation.

In addition to my previous commentary, also enjoy these Alaskan offerings from Progressive Alaska, and Immoral Minority,  and Celtic Diva’s great coverage of the Chuck Kopp subplot to this whole sordid affair.

Just for amusement, here’s a clip from a FOX News article that came out on July 11, 2008.

JUNEAU, Alaska —  The wipeout in the 2006 election left Republicans in such a state of dejection that they’ve overlooked the one shining victory in which a Republican star was born.

The triumph came in Alaska where Sarah Palin, a politician of eye-popping integrity, was elected governor. She is now the most popular governor in America, with an approval rating in the 90s, and probably the most popular public official in any state.

Her rise is a great (and rare) story of how adherence to principle–especially to transparency and accountability in government–can produce political success.

Ah, what a difference a week makes.





Palin’s Power Trip – The Plot Thickens

19 07 2008

Break out the hip waders.  The mud storm over the Governor’s mysterious termination of Walt Monegan continues, with no signs of letting up.  The more we learn, the smarmier it gets.

Recall yesterday, when Governor Sarah Palin released a statement that included the following:

To allege that I, or any member of my family, requested, received or released confidential personnel information on an Alaska State Trooper, or directed disciplinary action be taken against any employee of the Department of Public Safety, is, quite simply, outrageous.

Well, newly ex-commissioner Walt Monegan has spilled the beans, stating “They can’t fire me twice.”  According to the Anchorage Daily News, Monegan says he was pressured to fire Trooper Mike Wooten, a cop of questionable character, and ex-husband of Palin’s sister Molly.  Ugly divorces are nasty, but ugly child custody battles are nastier.  Ask anyone who’s had the misfortune of being involved in one, or knowing someone who has.  We Alaskans are now privy to more information than we ever needed or wanted to know about Mike & Molly and the divorce from Hell.  It’s all out there in black & white – Drunk driving, foul language, illegal moose hunting, extramarital affair, neighbors peeking in windows, private investigators, death threats, snowmachining on sick days, verbal abuse, and yes, dry tasering an 11-year old so he could see what it felt like. 

But the real issue at hand is:  Did Palin fire Walt Monegan because he refused to can Trooper Wooten, and settle an old personal Palin family score?

She says no.  He says maybe.  Discuss.

According to Walt Monegan, in addition to discussions with Palin herself, he was pressured by Palin’s former chief-of-staff (and current campaign manager for Sen. Ted Stevens) Mike Tibbles, Department of Administration Commissioner Annette Kreitzer, and director of boards and commissions Frank Bailey.  And what did these three have to say?  The classic trifecta:  No comment.  It never happened.  I don’t recall.

‘First Dude’ Todd Palin, who admitted having a conversation about Wooten with Monegan right after he was hired said, “I know I’ve never told him to fire Wooten.”  So….does Todd Palin actually have the power to ‘tell’ or ‘not tell’ the Commissioner of Public Safety to do ANYthing?  Disturbing also is the fact that this meeting with Monegan took place in the Governor’s office.  So, although it wasn’t “telling”, it sure sounds like “pressuring”, especially in light of the fact that calls, complaints and coversations had been occuring from the point of his hire until a month or two before his unexplained termination.

Let’s go back and parse the Governor’s statement.

To allege that I, or any member of my family, requested, received or released confidential personnel information on an Alaska State Trooper, or directed disciplinary action be taken against any employee of the Department of Public Safety, is, quite simply, outrageous.

This gets back to the telling vs. pressuring point.  No one may have “directed” that Wooten be fired, but there’s a lot of grey area, and plenty of room for inappropriate behavior on the part of the Governor, her husband, and her staff.  They march on a slippery slope.

And if, as reported, material from Wooten’s confidential Administrative Investigation file is now in the hands of Palin’s sister Molly McCann and her attorney, wouldn’t that mean, contrary to the Governor’s statement, that a member of her family DID receive confidential personnel information on an Alaska State Trooper?  So far, no one can imagine how that can possibly have happened (blink blink).  We wait for the next leak.

Speaking of parsing words… Monegan’s replacement, Chuck Kopp, answering questions about a sexual harrassment charge in his past says (my emphasis),  “There is absolutely nothing in my record that I’m ashamed of.”   Stay tuned.





Palin’s Power Trip – Off With Their Heads!

17 07 2008

Is this it? I’ve been wondering what it will be that sinks the so-far unsinkable ship of Sarah Palin. So far, despite little chinks here and there in her teflon armor, Sarah the Magnificent has emerged fairly unscathed. Until now, perhaps.

There’s been all sorts of buzz and inuendo and rumor about the real reason Sarah Palin fired Commissioner of Public Safety, Walt Monegan. The administration’s official reason was that they wanted to “go in a new direction”. Alaska Public Safety in a new direction? Like….letting the criminals go free? Abandoning rural Alaska to fend for itself? Martial Law? Anyone who’s been paying attention has been pretty impressed with Walt Monagan’s integrity, work ethic and genuine commitment to the Troopers and the people of Alaska. New direction? We didn’t get it.

Palin buddy and brand-new Commissioner of Public Safety Chuck Kopp, (who replaces Monegan, the ‘chucked cop’) made a statement mumbling something about “looking forward to moving forward” and not commenting on prior leadership…which is code for “There’s a story here, and I’m not going to tell you what it is.” That usually means the story is worth knowing. Bloggers and other interested parties began pricking up their ears, and waiting for the inevitable leak.

Well, the leak turned out to be a tsunami in the form of a blog post from Andrew Halcro titled “Why Walt Monegan Got Fired: Palin’s Abuse of Power.” I strongly urge everyone to read it. Here’s the gist of what he claims.

Palin wanted Monagan to cut the budget for the State Troopers. Already underfunded and stretched to the breaking point, he said no. (gasp)

But the second, and far creepier reason, the one that surely will be setting the blogosphere on fire and accelerating her fall from the ivory tower if it is substantiated, is this. Let me preface this by saying that no…I’m not making this up. Stay with me. Sarah Palin’s younger sister Molly used to be married to Mike Wooten. Mike Wooten has been an Alaska State Trooper for the last 8 years. Molly and Mike went through a messy divorce. The Palins were not pleased. Halcro relates a truly bizarre series of events that can only be described as ‘stalking behavior’ committed by the Palin family against Trooper Wooten. Notes on windshields, threatening phone calls, Todd Palin (Sarah’s husband and Alaksa’s ‘First Dude’) taking pictures and sending them to Wooten’s supervisor. There were a total of 25 complaints filed against Wooten. Each time, an Administrative Investigator would review the complaint, find it unfounded or not substantiated, and dismiss it. The other side of the story is that Wooten is no angel…extramarital affair, dry tasering his step-son (he says at his step-son’s request),…..it goes on and on. Another Alaskan political bad movie.

Fast forward to 2008. Now, Sarah Palin is the Governor.

“Twice in the last few months complaints were filed by the governor’s office accusing Wooten of improperly using his patrol car. Both times he was visiting his kids at school and both times he had permission from his sargent. The last complaint came in May after Todd Palin saw Wooten pulling out of the school parking lot and six days later the complaint landed on Wooten’s supervisor’s desk.

During the legislative session this past spring, Palin reportedly told Commissioner Monegan to fire Wooten because he was giving Troopers a bad name. However Monegan said he would do no such thing.

A short time afterwards, it was discovered that confidential material in Wooten’s Administrative Investigation file had been released to his ex-wife and her attorney. This drew outrage from the Public Safety Union as well as the Commissioner. AI files are strictly confidential and can only be released with the written signature of the Trooper, but yet no one could explain how the detailed confidential information was released.

Reportedly, both Commissioner Monegan and Colonel Audie Halloway warned that if they found out the file was leaked by the governor’s office, they would pursue charges.

Unfortunately, Commissioner Walt Monegan has been fired and word on the street is Colonel Audie Halloway’s days are numbered as the new commissioner brings in those who won’t object when the governor uses the Troopers as her own private security force.”

You may now pick your chin up off the desk.

Where will this all go from here? Local mainstream media is picking up the story, as is the Associated Press. Will this little nugget be featured in the upcoming Wall Street Journal article on Palin? How about People Magazine? Is the image of the squeaky-clean, hockey mom who hands out cash forever sullied? Have her VP chances just gone up in a puff of smoke? Will she be thrown under the Straight Talk Express Bus?? One can only wait and speculate. In addition to Halcro, Celtic Diva is hot on the trail with a report from the latest press conference, as is Anchorage talk radio, including KUDO 1080am which should have plenty to say tomorrow.

Governor Palin herself has just released a statement. “critics have taken this to rediculous extremes”, “false allegations”, “outrageous” and my favorite, “It is unfortunate, as we seek to address a growing energy crisis in this state, that this matter has been raised now.” Yes, perhaps it would have been more polite to wait until we have a gas line to talk about why Monegan was fired? Nice try. You can read the governor’s entire statement HERE.

And to Ethan Berkowitz and Diane Benson, I say, lean back, enjoy the popcorn and see how Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell fares in his House race if Palin goes from Queen of Light, to millstone around the neck.

We live in interesing times.





McCain is a Greenie. Palin’s a Socialist. Hillary’s the President.

4 06 2008

Soooo, where exactly am I?    Did I awaken in some alternative reality yesterday, and didn’t realize it?

First, there’s John McCain standing in front of a big green wall, talking about alternative energy, and how he’s the change candidate. HUH? Did he just think that because running as a ‘change candidtate’ seems to be working for Obama, he might as well give it a shot too? I guess no one told him that this is only a great strategy if you actually ARE a change candidate. And I don’t know what idiot adviser told McCain it would be a great idea to give a speech in front of literally dozens of semi-enthusiastic supporters, that would practically have to be cut off so the media could cover Obama’s speech in front of 17,000 screaming Democrats with 15,000 more outside just to hear the audio.  Not a good plan.

Second, I’m holding my sides laughing about the Newsweek article that has Alaskan’s all a-twitter comparing Sarah Palin to Hugo Chavez.  Having claimed my staunch neutrality about Sarah Palin, I’m enjoying standing in the middle of the swirling tornado that has become the Palin phenomenon and enjoying my popcorn.  Is she a crazy creationist wingnut?  A big business-hating, free-gas-doling socialist?  A maverick hockey mom? The next Vice President?  No one seems to know.

And third, did Terry McAuliffe really stand up there last night and introduce what should have been Hillary Clinton’s graceful concession speech by saying, “Please welcome the next president of the United States”?  (double take) (double take again).  This tale of the campaign that wouldn’t die, even after it was dead will, supposedly, come to an end on Saturday.  Rumor has it that Clinton was on the receiving end of a 32-person conference call from her top supporters in Congress who were outraged that she didn’t take that opportunity to bow out gracefully.  As someone once said, she “never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity”.

 Well it’s bedtime in Alaska.  Where will I wake up tomorrow?  Maybe….the Twilight Zone.