Friday, October 10, 2008

Steve Branchflower's Troopergate Report Indicates Sarah Palin Committed Abuse Of Power; May Be Fatal To John McCain's Chances

October 10th, 2008 may be remembered as the day the final nail was driven into the increasingly moribund campaign of Republican Presidential candidate John McCain. For it is also the day that special investigator Steve Branchflower released the results of his lengthy investigation of McCain's running mate, Governor Sarah Palin.

And the results? Three words: Abuse of power.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that the report by investigator Steve Branchflower was made public late this afternoon by a 12-0 vote of the Legislative Council, which authorized the investigation. Additional reports published by the ADN's Alaska Politics blog, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, KIMO Channel 13, and KTUU Channel 2.

National and international coverage include CNN, the Los Angeles Times, the Kansas City Star (editorial), and the Boston Globe. The U.K. Guardian believes this will deal a body blow to the McCain campaign.

Branchflower's report contains four findings, only one of which was truly derogatory.

(1). Palin violated the state's executive branch ethics act, which says that "each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust". This is fully set forth in Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a). This is the nasty finding, stemming from the question as to whether Palin abused her power by pushing for the firing of state trooper Mike Wooten, who was involved in a nasty divorce from Palin's sister. Palin and her husband, Todd, have accused Wooten of threatening Palin's father. The investigation also looked into whether Palin dismissed public safety commissioner Walt Monegan because he resisted pressure to fire Wooten.

(2). Monegan's refusal to fire Wooten was not the sole reason for his dismissal but that it was a "contributing factor." Still, Branchflower said, Palin's firing of Monegan was "a proper and lawful exercise" of the governor's authority.

(3). The third finding says a workers compensation claim filed by Wooten was handled appropriately.

(4). Number four concludes that the attorney general's office failed to comply with Branchflower's August 6th request for information about the case in e-mails.

The release of Branchflower's 263-page report came after a unanimous vote of the 12-member Legislative Council, which authorized the inquiry last summer. The vote followed an all-day, closed-door meeting with Branchflower. Three members participated by telephone.

Click HERE to view the 263-page report in PDF format. An additional 1000 pages of documents will remain confidential and not be released to the public.

Click HERE to read Todd Palin's 52-page response to his subpoena in PDF format.

Branchflower also recommends the Legislature change the way complaints against peace officers such as troopers are handled. He says lawmakers should consider making it possible for people who file such complaints to get feedback about the status of their complaint and whatever action was taken about it.

Out of deference to Palin's position, Branchflower never did subpoena her. However, Governor Palin did not voluntarily provide any information to Branchflower. Branchflower's request for a deposition from Palin's sister Molly McCann was declined. KTUU news video embedded below:

Reuters reveals that the McCain-Palin campaign has responded. Here's their statement:

"Today's report shows that the Governor acted within her proper and lawful authority in the reassignment of Walt Monegan. This was a partisan led inquiry run by (Barack) Obama supporters and the Palins were completely justified in their concern regarding Trooper (Michael) Wooten given his violent and rogue behavior. Lacking evidence to support the original Monegan allegation, the Legislative Council seriously overreached, making a tortured argument to find fault without basis in law or fact".

Closer to home, the Palin Administration has responded via her communications director Bill McAllister, who released the following statement on the report issued today from Steve Branchflower:

“The so-called ‘Troopergate’ incident began with Governor Palin’s removal of Walt Monegan as commissioner of public safety. Today, investigator Steve Branchflower vindicated the governor by finding that she acted within her constitutional authority to remove ‘at-will’ employees.

“However, along with several members of the Legislative Council, we question how Mr. Branchflower reached the conclusion that Governor Palin abused her power with respect to Trooper Mike Wooten. That finding required speculation and assumptions on Mr. Branchflower’s part and could not be supported solely on the basis of the evidence that he collected. We agree with the comments made that Alaskans should consider the report in total rather than relying solely on the findings.”

The Office of the Governor has released the depositions of the seven state employees named in the investigation, which include their testimony regarding internal administration discussions about Mike Wooten. The documents can be accessed at the following links:

Randy Ruaro Affidavit
Bailey Transcript 8-27-08.pdf
Brad Thompson Answers
Commissioner Kreitzer Answers
Dianne Kiesel Answers
Janice Mason Answers
Letter Senate Judiciary
January 29-30 E-mail
March 2 E-mail
October 18 2007 E-mail
Ivy Subpoena Responses

Analysis: While Troopergate clearly doesn't rise anywhere close to the level of a Watergate, John McCain not only is averaging seven points behind Barack Obama in various polls, but came off a lacklustre debate performance on national T.V. I don't see how he can come back from this, particularly if the market doesn't recover. And it won't recover in time; most experts believe it will remain moribund through 2009. The Obama campaign will get a lot of high mileage out of this. Because Sarah Palin couldn't handle a simple firing properly, she may have just given us Barack Obama for four years.

Thanks a hell of a lot, Sarah. Guess I ought to buy my guns now, because I'm sure Obama will be grabbing them once he becomes President.

1 comment:

  1. David Heckman10/11/2008 8:25 AM

    The story on your Home Page about 'Troopergate' places emphasis where it doesn't belong, to wit:

    First, Cabinet members/Department Heads " _ _ serve at the pleasure of the Governor _ _ ". From 1989 through 1994 I served under the Governor of the state of Florida under a Statute with identical conditions for dismissal, and I knew I was subject to dismissal at a moment's notice.

    Second, the Report clearly states Governor Palin did not break any statutory law when Public Safety Commissoner Walter Monegan was dismissed, as doumented in the Report.

    Third, it is a matter of judgment and opnion whether or not she violated the Ethics law in Alaska. Typically, such a finding is not made based upon the opinion of an investigator. The proper way is for an Ethics Panel (such as those for Attorneys, Judges, Professional Engineers, etc) to either take such a Report and make the determination, or conduct their own investigation.

    Any headline that trumpets that Sarah Palin committed abuse of power is misleading and an overstatement, especially in light of the fact that, according to investigator Branchflower, Monegan's refusal to fire Officer Wooten was only a "contributing factor" for his dismissal. Furthermore, Branchflower reports that (Governor) Palin's dismisal of Commissioner Monegan was a "proper and lawful exercise of the Governor's authority".

    This is an obvious attempt, quite likely by someone from the 30-plus operatives known to have been sent to Alaska of behalf of Senator Obama, to discredit Governor Palin in an effort to queston the ingegrity of the V.P. candidate on the ticket with Senator McCain.

    This investigation, in my opinion, was simply another unfounded attack on the integrity of Governor Palin.