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Friday, October 10, 2008

Sarah Palin - "Troopergate"

The controversy over Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's dismissal of a state official, Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, has come to a head.
The state of Alaska's investigation into "Troopergate" has concluded, and an investigator's report has been released - ruling that the Republicans' vice-presidential candidate did abuse her power as governor.

What was the accusation?

In July 2008, Mrs Palin dismissed the state's public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan. The state has been investigating the dismissal and whether she pressurised Mr Monegan to fire Alaska state trooper Mike Wooten. (A trooper is a state law enforcement official.)

What is Mrs Palin's relationship with Trooper Wooten?

Mr Wooten is Mrs Palin's ex-brother-in-law. He was married to her sister, Molly McCann. The two were involved in a bitter divorce and custody battle. Sarah and First Gentleman Todd Palin have said that Mr Wooten made threats towards their family.

What is Mrs Palin's version of events?

Mrs Palin said Mr Monegan was never fired. She said he was asked to step down as public safety commissioner and was offered a position on the Alcoholic Beverage Control board. Mrs Palin said Mr Monegan declined the offer. She said the reassignment had to do with Mr Monegan's "outright insubordination" and "rogue mentality" when it came to budget and policy issues.

What is Mr Monegan's version of events?

Mr Monegan said he was pressured on the phone by Todd Palin, Commissions Director Frank Bailey and other Palin aides to fire Trooper Wooten.

Why was there an investigation?

An investigation was launched by the Alaska state legislature on 28 July to see whether Mrs Palin, or members of her administration, abused powers to get Mr Monegan dismissed. Mrs Palin initially said she would co-operate with the investigation, but has since revoked that statement. Investigators did not subpoena Mrs Palin, but Mr Palin did provide written answers to their questions.

What else is known about Trooper Wooten?

Mr Wooten has been accused of using a Taser on his stepson, drinking beer in his patrol car, illegally shooting a moose and threatening his former father-in-law.

What is Frank Bailey's involvement?

He placed phone calls to an Alaska State Trooper that were recorded and perceived by some people to be putting pressure on the Troopers to fire Mr Wooten. Mr Bailey has been put on administrative leave.

What's next?

Mrs Palin did not co-operate in the bi-partisan Legislative Council's investigation, and she always denied any wrong-doing.

Shortly after Mrs Palin was chosen as John McCain's running mate, she filed an ethics complaint against herself in an effort to prove that she did not violate the Ethics Act. This complaint will be handled by the state Personnel Board.

The BBC's Richard Lister says that the report does complicate Republican effort to focus the presidential campaign on questions of character, but it seems that voters - for now at least - are far more concerned about who will extract them from the current economic crisis, than any questions about political infighting in Alaska.

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