Report: Palin Violated Alaskan Ethics Law

Friday, October 10, 2008 at 09:44 PM

The long awaited Ethics Report from the bipartisan Alaskan Legislative Committee has been issued and made public after a long session in which the Committee discussed the 260+ page report. The conclusion: Palin had every right to fire Walt Monegan from his Public Safety post, but violated the ethics law of Alaska prior to the firing by using her office to pursue personal gain (the firing of her ex-brother in law).

The report finds her to have violated is Alaska Statutes section 39.52.110(a), governing ethics in the state's executive branch. The report's author, Stephen Branchflower, details a lengthy series of incidents in which Sarah Palin and/or Todd Palin brought various degrees of pressure to bear on Monegan and several of Monegan's subordinates to have State Trooper Michael Wooten fired, despite the fact that Wooten had already been investigated and disciplined for the very actions that had the Palins upset. And believe me, the recitation of the Palins' efforts leaves little doubt that this was a serious and ongoing effort.

The Palin claim that the Palin family feared Wooten is given short shrift, the report noting that in none of the contacts the Palins had with Monegan and his staff did they ever raise that claim, and the evidence gathered for the report was inconsistent with the claim.

The report also takes the Governor and her AG's staff to task for not providing the e-mails that Branchflower long ago requested. Branchflower notes that he received only 270 e-mails which were of limited value because they concerned only information already in his possession or related to news accounts and press releases about the case. Not until this Monday, Oct. 6, did the Alaska AG office tell him that it had found another 209 relevant e-mails, and even then the e-mails were sent not to Branchflower, but to the Governor's office for review. By the end of that day, the AG asserted a claim of privilege as to all 209 e-mails.

What to make of this report and its likely impact on the presidential campaign? It seems to me that the report is, in fact, pretty damning of Palin's cavalier attitude about the boundaries between her personal desires and values and her official role. In other words, laws don't seem to matter nearly as much as what she wants. But the finding of a legal violation is technical enough--lots of definitions of terms, the need to explain that the Palin family desire to get Wooten amounts to a "personal...interest"--that I'm sure the McCain campaign is, as I speak, already spinning it as a partisan attempt to hurt Palin by twisting words and facts to create a "technical violation." The McCain folks will also be proudly headlining the report's finding that Palin's firing of Monegan was "a proper and lawful exercise" of her authority.

The die hard GOPers will buy it. Will independent voters and more moderate Republicans, who already have serious doubts about her fitness?