'October Surprise' Over Palin Investigation?

Is the McCain campaign afraid of an 'October surprise' involving vice-presidential pick Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska?

The Alaska state senator running an investigation of Gov. Palin says the McCain campaign is using stall tactics to prevent him from releasing his final report by Oct. 31, four days before the November election.

"It's likely to be damaging to the Governor's administration," said Senator Hollis French, a Democrat, appointed the project manager for a bi-partisan State Senate Legislative Counsel Committee investigation of claims that Palin abused her office to get the Alaska public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, fired.

Palin, who has denied any wrongdoing and has said she has nothing to hide, has hired private lawyers to represent her in the matter.

French says that his investigation has been going smoothly before she brought in her attorneys.

"Until then, the Governor used state lawyers and everything was fine," said Sen. French.

"That's wrong," said a spokesperson for the McCain campaign, Brian Rogers.

"The attorney was hired by the state Department of Law weeks ago, as part of the official duty to defend the governor," said Roger, and "obviously had nothing to do with either the McCain campaign."

A team of McCain campaign operatives arrived in Anchorage over the weekend "to help coordinate" her vice-presidential campaign, according to a McCain campaign official.

In a letter sent on Friday, Gov. Palin's new lawyer, Thomas V. Van Flein, requested a full list of documents, other evidence and witness statements from the Senate's investigation.

Senator French responded "it would be highly unusual for an investigator to share information with one of the targets of the investigation."

French said he still wanted to take testimony from Governor Palin sometime in September about allegations she wanted the public safety commissioner to fire her ex-brother-in-law following a messy divorce to her sister.

"The Governor first issued a blanket denial but now she's had to back down and that's a problem," said French. "She has a credibility problem," he said.

French says the investigation will also seek to learn how the Governor's office obtained confidential information from her ex-brother-in-law's personnel file.

"If she was involved, it would be a violation of state law," said French.

The controversy over the firing of public safety commissioner Monegan has been simmering for months in Alaska. Monegan has alleged he was fired because he rebuffed pressure from the Governor and her husband to dismiss her brother-in-law who served as a state trooper.

Palin says that she dismissed Monegan over an honest disagreement over budget priorities.

French says the McCain campaign failed to contact any of the Senators involved in the investigation during the vetting process of Gov. Palin.

"If they had done their job they never would have picked her," said French. "Now they may have to deal with an October surprise," he said, referring to the scheduled release Oct. 31 of the committee's final report.

Meanwhile, at a campaign stop today in Philadelphia, McCain told reporters that Palin was thoroughly checked out by his staff before being tapped.

"My vetting process was completely thorough and I'm grateful for the results," said McCain.

The report is a preliminary step prior to any effort to impeach the Governor, said French.

"That will be for the legislature to decide," he said.

McCain campaign officials say they were aware of the "trooper thing" but did not consider it an impediment to her selection as the running mate.

This post has been updated

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