Thursday, 12 February 2009

Troopergate, a beast of mythical proportions

Troopergate is becoming the Hydra, a beast with the body of a reptile and many, many heads. If any of the heads is severed another grows in its place. The stench from the Hydra's breath is enough to kill man or beast.

There is the original Troopergate, which started when Walt Monegan was fired for refusing to fire state trooper Mike Wooten, Sarah Palin's former brother-in-law. An investigation by a bi-partisan panel of state senators and representatives followed and the Governor was found to have abused her power. That investigation was conducted by Steve Branchflower, starting early August 2008. Sarah Palin initially promised to cooperate in the investigation, telling the Legislature to “hold me accountable”, but later refused to speak to Branchflower. After the report was published on October 10, another investigation, instigated by Sarah herself, this time by the very secretive state Personnel Board (all members of the board are appointed by the Governor), concluded that the Governor had NOT abused her power. Sarah Palin waived her confidentiality to release the Personnel Board report - but not her deposition or her husband's.

Confused? There's more, much more...

The Branchflower investigation started before Sarah Palin was chosen to run for VP, but five Republican lawmakers filed a lawsuit in state court to stop it. They charged the investigation was partisan. A few weeks later, seven employees who had been called to testify, with Colberg's office acting as their attorney, sued the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 25, arguing that legislators on the committee lacked authority to issue the subpoenas. Colberg's was challenged by a legislator as to whether he believed obeying a subpoena was "optional."

Enter Liberty Legal Institute, in the shape of Kelly Shackelford, from Texas, chief counsel of said Institute and co-counsel assisting Brena, Bell, & Clarkson, of Anchorage, in the case against members of the committee. Shackelford said at the time: “It’s about time some of these rogue ‘investigators’ have to face the law. Abusing their office for political purposes is wrong.” The two lawsuits were consolidated and the hearing took place on October 2 in the courtroom of Judge Peter A. Michalski, who ruled that the subpoenas and the investigation were valid.

Liberty is the legal arm of the Free Market Foundation, which is associated with evangelical leader James Dobson's Focus on the Family, and lists its guiding principles as limited government and promotion of Judeo-Christian values.

On February 6, 2009, Senate Resolution #5 passed 16-1. This resolution finds the witnesses who ignored their subpoenas GUILTY OF CONTEMPT of the Alaska State Senate. Todd Palin had refused to honour the subpoena, but co-operated with the separate investigation by the state Personnel Board.

On Tuesday, February 10, 2009, Attorney General Talis Colberg resigned, deals were made, but the questions continue, as evidenced in the Governor's press conference yesterday. There is growing suspicion that Colberg was pressured into resigning.

Then there is the still unresolved question of the e-mails. The McCain-Palin campaign released a batch of e-mails that her lawyers said demonstrated Monegan was fired for insubordination. But in response to a request filed by a conservative activist under Alaska's Public Records Act, Palin invoked executive privilege in order to withhold some 1,100 e-mails, many of whose subject lines suggest little connection to sensitive policy deliberation. Some e-mails were copied to Todd Palin, not a state employee, therefore not covered by executive privilege and still not released.

Troopergate is not going to go away, Governor Palin. But how many more heads is it going to sprout and how many more careers will it kill before this matter is resolved?