Saturday, October 11, 2008

Now That The Branchflower Troopergate Investigation Found Sarah Palin To Have Committed Abuse Of Power, What's Next? Is McCain Finished?

Readers of this blog undoubtedly know that the independent Troopergate investigation led by Steve Branchflower found that Governor Sarah Palin committed "abuse of power". Utah media reports have been published by the Deseret News and the Provo Daily Herald. The Alaska Pride blog contains a story with multiple Alaska media links, and Andrew Halcro has posted his analysis HERE.

But will there be sanctions, a recall, or even impeachment? What is the expected effect upon the McCain/Palin campaign.

First, let's review the four specific findings of the Branchflower investigation, as extracted from the Anchorage Daily News' Alaska Politics blog:

Finding Number One: For the reasons explained in section IV of this report, I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) provides

The legislature reaffirms 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.

Finding Number Two: I find that, although Walt Monegan's refusal to fire Trooper Michael Wooten was not the sole reason he was fired by Governor Sarah Palin, it was likely a contributing factor to his termination as Commissioner of Public Safety. In spite of that, Governor Palin's firing of Commissioner Monegan was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.

Finding Number Three: Harbor Adjustment Service of Anchorage, and its owner Ms. Murleen Wilkes, handled Trooper Michael Wooten's workers' compensation claim property and in the normal course of business like any other claim processed by Harbor Adjustment Service and Ms. Wilkes. Further, Trooper Wooten received all the workers' compensation benefits to which he was entitled.

Finding Number Four: The Attorney General's office has failed to substantially comply with my August 6th, 2008 written request to Governor Sarah Palin for infomration about the case in the form of emails.

Click HERE to view the 263-page report in PDF format. There are 1,000 pages of additional documents which won't be released publicly.

Only one of these findings was truly derogatory; finding number one. This was the "abuse of power" finding. But Branchflower acknowledged that the firing of Walt Monegan was proper and lawful. The actual termination of Monegan was never disputed by serious critics of Governor Palin; instead, it was Governor Palin's evasiveness in explaining the situation that was subject to dispute.

So this leads to the question as to the further legal disposition of Sarah Palin. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner addresses this issue. They state that under Alaska law, it is up to the state's Personnel Board, not the Legislature, to decide whether Palin violated the ethics laws as laid out in AS 39.52.110(a). If so, it must refer the matter to the Senate president for disciplinary action. Violations also carry a possible fine of up to $5,000.

The legislature could also initiate an impeachment inquiry, but is unlikely to do so, since Governor Palin still enjoys approval ratings of over 60 percent, and the magnitude of the offense hardly rises to the level of an impeachment. Of course, some vengeful Alaskans may band together to launch a recall initiative, but that is unlikely to be sustained, either.

The McCain campaign quickly rejected the notion that the adverse finding might impair his chances of getting elected President. "I think the American people can tell the difference between the results of a politically motivated investigation and a legitimate finding of fact," campaign spokesman Taylor Griffin said.

But McCain is just whistling in the dark. First, it was not politically motivated, although partisan politics were injected into it from time to time. The Legislative Council authorizing the investigation was bi-partisan, with eight Republicans and four Democrats, and the investigation was initiated before Sarah Palin was chosen to be McCain's running mate. Second, McCain is an average of seven points behind Barack Obama in various polls with only three weeks to go before the election. His recent debate performance against Obama was considered lacklustre, at best. Add to the mix a running mate who's just been found to have committed abuse of power, and there's no way McCain's fortunes can improve, unless something catastrophic was to happen to the Obama campaign. Even a televised apology by Palin might not be enough to help McCain pull it out. The bottom line - on November 4th, John McCain's going back to Arizona, and Sarah Palin's going back to Alaska, whether you or I like it or not. October 10th, 2008 could go down in history as the day Barack Obama won the Presidency.

And awaiting Governor Palin upon her return to Alaska will be a more fractious population and a less compliant legislature than to what she's accustomed.

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