Legislature Steps Up Palin Ethics Investigation.

5 09 2008

Hollis French and Sarah Palin - Photo from AP

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

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

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

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

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

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What is McCain Thinking? One Alaskan’s Perspective.

29 08 2008

Downtown Wasilla, Alaska

“Is this a joke?”  That seemed to be the question du jour when my phone started ringing off the hook at 6:45am here in Alaska.  I mean, we’re sort of excited that our humble state has gotten some kind of national ‘nod’….but seriously?  Sarah Palin for Vice President?  Yes, she’s a popular governor.  Her all time high approval rating hovered around 90% at one point.  But bear in mind that the 90% approval rating came from one of the most conservative, and reddest-of-the-red states out there.  And that approval rating came before a series of events that have lead many Alaskans to question the governor’s once pristine image.

There is no doubt in my mind that many Alaskans are feeling pretty excited about this.  But we live in our own little bubble up here, and most of the attention we get is because of The Bridge to Nowhere, polar bears, the indictment of Ted Stevens, and the ongoing investigation and conviction of the string of legislators and oil executives who literally called themselves “The Corrupt Bastards Club”.

So seeing our governor out there in the national spotlight accepting the nomination for Vice Presidential candidate is just downright surreal.  Just months ago, when rumors surfaced that she was on the long version of the short list, she was questioned if she’d be interested in the position.  She said she couldn’t answer,

“until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day. I’m used to being very productive and working real hard in an administration. We want to make sure that that VP slot would be a fruitful type of position, especially for Alaskans and for the things that we’re trying to accomplish up here….”

There is no doubt that Palin has fierce territorial loyalties.  When elected governor there was much concern because she came right out and said she would favor her own home town of Wasilla (where she was mayor) and its surrounding environs collectively known as “the Valley” while leading the state.  And it’s obvious from her statement that Alaska was on her mind when accepting the VP nod (see my emphasis above).

So what is it that we’re “trying to accomplish up here”?

  • Palin is currently in the middle of a controversial gas pipeline project in Alaska.  She’s favored the ‘Trans Canada’ proposal that will run the pipeline through Canada, in effect shipping US jobs over the border.  Many Alaskans, including former governors, have favored the “All Alaska Route”.
  • She is also suing the federal government over listing the polar bears as a threatened species.  The science was even compelling enough to convince the Secretary of the Interior that the bears needed to be listed.  But acknowledgement of this issue, and the potential disruption to development on Alaska’s oil-rich north slope spurred Palin to attempt to stop the listing.
  • Does she want to open ANWR?  Yes.  Every politician in Alaska wants to open ANWR.  It’s basically a requirement if you ever hope to get elected for anything.  Even Mark Begich, the progressive Democrat running against the indicted Senator and Alaskan institution Ted Stevens, is pro-drilling.  That’s the sea we swim in up here.  There are a few anti-drilling folks, but you have to look hard to find them, and work hard to have them admit it.

Will all this wash with voters in the ‘Lower 48’?  Time will tell.

18 Million Cracks in the Glass Ceiling

It was obvious anyway, but became beat-you-over-the-head-with-a-two-by-four obvious when Palin referenced the ‘glass ceiling’ line, that this choice is a blatant pander to women.  I would like to believe that women will actually feel insulted by this.  Yes, it would have been historic if Hillary had gotten the nomination.  It was historic that she made it as far as she did.  Yes, it would be great to have a woman in the oval office, or in the VP slot if they are the right woman…a woman who got there with her own drive, grit, determination, intelligence, skill and merits.  When you’re hand-picked by a man to win votes simply because you are a woman, that doesn’t count, and it doesn’t break any kind of ceiling.  Would we have had a Stan Palin as our VP pick?  No.  So choosing a woman because you think her gender will get votes is insulting.

Governor “Squeakyclean”….or not.

Another focus of Palin’s introduction today was her reform image.  Listen to John McCain and you’ll hear about a maverick reformer who took on big oil, took on corrupt Alaska politicians, and whose ethics are unquestioned.

Alaskans really want to like Sarah Palin.  In a state where corruption is the rule, and the same faces keep recycling over and over and over again like a bad dream, a new face, with a promise of reform seemed like a breath of fresh air.  Palin defeated incumbent governor Frank Murkowski (father of Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski who he appointed to his own Senate seat when he was elected governor) because he was such an obnoxious, bloviating, downright BAD politician.  This staunchly republican state voted with relief, not having to cross over and vote Democratic, but still able to get Murkowski the hell out of office.  In the general election Palin swept into office running against a former Democratic governor, Tony Knowles, who was capable but came with baggage.  And he represented to Alaskans more of the same, tired old-style politics, and special interests that we have come to loathe.

So, if McCain had made his selection six months ago, the squeaky-clean governor meme would have made a little more sense.  But, Sarah Palin is currently under an ethics investigation by the Alaska state legislature.  The details of this investigation read like a trashy novel, and I suspect that the players will soon have new found celebrity on the national stage.  I’ll try to explain for all you non-Alaskans who suddenly have good reason to want to know more about Sarah Palin.  For those of you not interested in trashy novels, feel free to skip ahead.  Here it is…what we in Alaska call “TrooperGate”.

Sarah Palin’s sister Molly married a guy named Mike Wooten who is an Alaska State Trooper.  Mike and Molly had a rocky marriage.  When the marriage broke up, there was a bitter custody fight that is still ongoing.  During the custody investigation, all sorts of things were brought up about Wooten including the fact that he had illegally shot a moose (yes folks this is Alaska), driven drunk, and used a taser (on the test setting, he reminds us) on his 11-year old stepson, who supposedly had asked to see what it felt like.  While Wooten has turned out to be a less than stellar figure, the fact that Palin’s father accompanied him on the infamous moose hunt, and that many of the dozens of charges brought up by the Palin family happened long before they were ever reported smacked of desperate custody fight.  Wooten’s story is that he was basically stalked by the family.

After all this, Wooten was investigated and disciplined on two counts and allowed to kept his position with the troopers.  Enter Walt Monegan, Palin’s appointed new chief of the Department of Public Safety and head of the troopers.  Monegan was beloved by the troopers, did a bang-up job with minimal funding and suddenly got axed.  Palin was out of town and Monegan got “offered another job” (aka fired) with no explanation to Alaskans.  Pressure was put on the governor to give details, because rumors started to swirl around the fact that the highly respected Monegan was fired because he refused to fire the aforementioned Mike Wooten.  Palin vehemently denied ever talking to Monegan or pressuring Monegan in any way to fire Wooten, or that anyone on her staff did.  Over the weeks it has come out that not only was pressure applied, there were literally dozens of conversations in which pressure was applied to fire him.  Monegan has testified to this fact, spurring an ongoing investigation by the Alaska State Legislature.  But, before this investigation got underway, Palin sent the Alaska State Attorney General out to do some investigative work of his own, so she could find out in advance what the real investigation was going to find.  (No, I’m not making this up).  The AG interviewed several people, unbeknownst to the actual appointed investigator or the Legislature! Palin’s investigation of herself uncovered a recorded phone call retained by the Alaska State Troopers from Frank Bailey, a Palin underling, putting pressure on a trooper about the Wooten non-firing.  Todd Palin (governor’s husband) even talked to Monegan himself in Palin’s office while she was away.  Bailey is now on paid administrative leave.

As if this weren’t enough, Monegan’s appointed replacement Chuck Kopp, turns out to have been the center of his own little scandal.  He received a letter of reprimand and was reassigned after sexual harassment allegations by a former coworker who didn’t like all the unwanted kissing and hugging in the office.  Was he vetted?  Obviously not.  When he was questioned about all this, his comment was that no one had asked him and he thought they all knew.  Kopp, defiant, still claimed to have done nothing wrong and said to the press that there was no way he was stepping down from his new position.  Twenty four hours later, he stepped down.  Later it was uncovered that he received a $10,000 severance package for his two weeks on the job from Palin.  Monegan got nothing.

After extensive news coverage about all this nasty behind-the-scenes scandal, which is definitely NOT squeaky clean, Palin’s approval ratings fell to 67%, still high, but a far cry from the 90% number that’s being thrown around so glibly by the Republicans today.  Alaskans are quickly becoming disillusioned once again.

“Executive Experience”

Before her meteoric rise to political success as governor, just two short years ago Sarah Palin was the mayor of Wasilla.  I had a good chuckle at MSN.com’s claim that she had been the mayor of “Wasilla City”.  It is not a city.  Just Wasilla.  Wasilla is the heart of the Alaska “Bible belt” and Sarah was raised amongst the tribe that believes creationism should be taught in our public schools, homosexuality is a sin, and life begins at conception.  She’s a gun-toting, hang ’em high conservative.  Remember…this is where her approval ratings come from.  There is no doubt that McCain again is making a strategic choice to appeal to a particular demographic – fundamentalist right-wing gun-owning Christians.  And Republican bloggers are already gushing about how she has ‘more executive experience’ than Obama does!  Above is a picture of lovely downtown Wasilla, for those of you unfamiliar with the area.  Behind the Mug-Shot Saloon (the first bar I visited when I moved to Alaska long ago) is a little strip mall.  There are street signs in Wasilla with bullet holes in them.  Wasilla has a population of about 5500 people, and 1979 occupied housing units.  This is where your potential Vice President was two short years ago.  Can you imagine her negotiating a nuclear non-proliferation treaty?  Discussing foreign policy?  Understanding non-Alaskan issues?  Frankly, I don’t even know if she’s ever been out of the country.  She may ‘get’ Alaska, but there are only a half a million people here.  Don’t get me wrong….I love Alaska with all my heart.  I’m just saying.

I, and all Alaskans will be interested to see how this whole process unfolds.  This is definitely a gamble for McCain, and in my humble opinion, a gift to Obama and to Joe Biden who just got thrown a big hunk of red meat for the vice presidential debate.

This is the wedge-issue, desperate ‘Hail Sarah’ pass of the McCain campaign.

Now I’m off to get some Jiffy Pop.





Sarah Palin? McCain’s Next Trophy Girl?

29 08 2008

 

Well, this Alaskan is sitting here in disbelief.  This is a total gift to the Obama – Biden ticket.  As the nation scrambles to figure out who Sarah Palin IS, the thinking people of Alaska are simply mystified.  I’ll be posting about this a lot later in the day after I’m awake, (it’s early a.m. here in Alaska) but first impressions:

This woman is going to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency?  2 years ago she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.  For those of you out of state, this is as small, and backwoods as it sounds.  A dark horse candidate for governor, she was elected on the ‘anybody but Frank Murkowski’ ticket.  Our previous governor went down hard in his primary bid for reelection, because basically he was the worst governor, ever.  People questioned whether Sarah Palin was actually qualified to be governor of a state that has 1/2 a million people in it.

McCain obviously is looking for the Hillary vote since apparently he thinks women need no other criteria than a set of ovaries to mark their ballot, right?  I mean women don’t actually make policy decisions, do they?

He’s  also looking for the Evangelical vote.  Palin, a creationist, anti-gay, pro-lifer will appeal to this crowd.  Her fondness for creationism in schools, and the recent birth of a Downs Syndrome child can’t hurt here.

Did I say recent birth of a child?  Why, yes.  Our new Vice Presidential candidate has four children plus an infant son.  She obviously feels caring for her newborn won’t get in the way of her Vice Presidential duties. 

And don’t worry fellas.  There’s plenty for you.  Sarah won second place in the Miss Alaska contest! Didn’t they have a card for that in Monopoly?  And John McCain knows how important it is to have a trophy wife Veep on his arm.

John McCain has just done something that Obama has not been able to do yet – prove to the world unequivocably that McCain doesn’t have the judgement to be President.  He will never ever be able to hold his head up and say that Obama isn’t “ready to lead”.  

The pro-drilling crowd will be pleased too.  Why she’s even sueing the Federal Government for daring to suggest that polar bears should be listed as ‘threatened’.  Can’t have those damned bears interfering with the oil rigs.

And then there’s that annoying little ethics investigation by the Alaska State Legislature…

I think I’ll be chuckling all weekend over this.  More to come later.  There’s just so much fodder here.  Where’s a blogger to start?





Gov. Squeakyclean to Speak at Republican Convention

21 08 2008

In a world of corrupt Republicans, Sarah Palin has apparently made enough of an impression on the G.O.P. that she’s been asked to speak at the Republican National Convention on September 2nd. It looks like a little pesky thing like an ongoing ethics investigation isn’t enough to keep her from being invited to speak on the evening in which “Reform” is the theme. (Is it possible they don’t read political blogs, or newspapers, or surf the internets?) She’ll be slotted in the evening before keynote speaker Rudy Giuliani. Popcorn and irony go so well together.

Here are the speakers for the evening:

  • Former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani
  • Former Gov. Mike Huckabee (Ark.)
  • Former Gov. Tom Ridge (Pa.)
  • Gov. Sarah Palin (Alaska)
  • Gov. Jon Huntsman (Utah)
  • Rosario Marin, California Secretary of the State and Consumer Services Agency and former Treasurer of the United States
  • Former U.S. Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.)
  • Gov. Linda Lingle (Hawaii)
  • Former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (Md.)

UPDATE: (After coming up for air after laughing myself silly)  McCain has just handed Obama a nice election day gift…the election.  This should eliminate all doubt that McCain is capable of making a serious presidential decision.  Apparently the creationist beauty queen who is under investigation by the Legislature would be a heartbeat away from the presidency in a McCain administration.





Rasmussen Results for Alaska

1 08 2008

Just reported by Daily Kos:

Still Anyone’s Game

Likely Alaska voters. MoE 4% (7/17 results)

McCain (R) 44 (45)
Obama (D) 39 (40)

The Stevens indictments haven’t filtered up to the presidential race, which is logical. But McCain is still dramatically underperforming his ticket in the state. Remember, this is a state that Bush won by 25 points in 2004, 61-36. Obama is already garnering more support than Kerry did, while McCain is running 17 points below Bush.

Obama has spent $88,000 in ads in the state which seems like nothing, but in Alaska actually goes a long way (the cheapest media markets in the nation). It would take a relatively minor investment in money and perhaps a single visit to put serious pressure on GOP prospects in the state.

One other bit of interesting info from the poll:

But [Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin] is popular in her home state and is seen by most Alaska voters as more ethical than the typical politician. Sixty-four percent (64%) of voters rate Palin’s job performance as excellent or good versus only 14% who view it as poor. Palin is seen as more ethical than most politicians by 51% of Alaska voters. Another 33% say she is as ethical as her peers.

Back in April, Palins numbers were a bit better:

Republican Governor Sarah Palin earns much better reviews—73% good or excellent, 7% poor.

So thus far, her abuse of power scandal hasn’t hit her too hard. Perhaps voters are waiting to see what comes out of investigations looking into her efforts to use the power of her office to retaliate against her sister’s ex-husband, a policeman. Still, her Lt. Gov, Sean Parnell, running against Dan Young in the House Republican primary, has pulled all ads that feature Palin. Republicans are walking on egg shells in Alaska these days.

Eggshells indeed. But I don’t know if I agree that the scandal “hasn’t hit her too hard”. That’s an almost double digit drop in three months. Much will depend now on the outcome of the investigation.

The poll results were from 7/17…the very beginning of the breaking scandal.  The next results will be interesting.





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!