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.




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

15 09 2008

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

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

and….that’s about it.

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

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

The campaign insists the investigation has been hijacked by Democrats.

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

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

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

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

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

 





Palin’s Clear and Transparent Stonewall.

11 09 2008

Well, she’s told us right from the beginning what to expect. When Palin ran for governor, she touted how her new leadership would be “clear and transparent”. We’d had it with corruption, and we’d had it with her predecessor, Frank Murkowski. Palin was squeaky clean. She was new, she actually discussed ethics, and she promised us that business as usual would be business no more. The Good Ol’ Boys were in her crosshairs and they’d better start worrying.

Then came Troopergate. People started feeling uneasy. What was going on here? We needed to give her the benefit of the doubt. She was the reformer, Murkowski-slayer, and ethical Wonder Woman from Wasilla! There had to be more than met the eye. This Wooten character must be pure evil, and she was justified. But, as in the case with all scandals, there came a steady drip…drip…drip… of new information. All sorts of things started surfacing, like emails, and conversations that, according to Palin, never happened. Palin looked into the camera lens and into the eyes of every Alaskan and said, “Hold me accountable.” “I welcome the investigation.” That’s why we liked her. Open, honest, transparent and accountable. What’s not to love?

The bipartisan legislature took her at her word and started talking about an investigation. Then Palin assured us that, really, no investigation was necessary. She’d be happy to answer questions without the investigation. She looked a little panicked. The legislature voted unanimously for an investigation.

THEN Palin asked Talis Colberg, the Attorney General to start talking to anyone who might know anything about “troopergate” before Stephen Branchflower, the legislature’s investigator got there. A little bit of preemptive sleuthing so she’d know what to expect. That’s when people who were paying attention started to go ballistic.

Enter McCain and the gang. Palin gets a lawyer. The lawyer says the investigation is unconstitutional. The lawyer says the players are biased.

That’s where we were yesterday.

Now we’re looking at seven members of the Palin administration who are facing subpoena’s because they have refused to testify. At least, that’s what we think. We’ll know tomorrow. Thats when the House and Judiciary committees are meeting in Anchorage to make decisions about the subpoenas.

But this week, the state Department of Law – representing Department of Administration employees – threatens in a seven-page letter to go to court to block the subpoenas, thus widening the conflict to all three branches of government.

The letter is signed by Michael Barnhill, senior assistant to Attorney General Talis Colberg, and is addressed to state Sen. Kim Elton, the Juneau Democrat who heads the legislative panel that initiated the Troopergate investigation.

So, to all those naysayers who say that Palin is no longer clear and transparent, I say, yes she most certainly is.

Now… the first details of Palin’s interview with Gibson are reaching Alaska….I’ll be back.





Palin on the Honor System. No Subpoena. Yet.

5 09 2008

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

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

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

However, legislators still want their investigator to interview Palin.

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

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

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