On Saturday, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin twice spoke to reporters about the so-called "Troopergate" scandal and the investigative report on whether she had abused her power in trying to get her sister’s ex-husband Mike Wooten fired as a state trooper, and for firing Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan one year after she, her staffers, and her husband Todd began unsuccessfully pressuring Monegan to let Wooten go.
Palin spoke on the phone with Alaska reporters about the report. The McCain-Palin campaign only allowed one question per reporter. The journalists came from the Anchorage Daily News, KTVA-Channel 11 and KTUU-Channel 2. No follow-ups were allowed.
The call can be heard HERE.
"Well, I’m very very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing," Palin said, "any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that."
That’s just not the case.
One can make the argument, as Palin and her allies have tried to do, that this investigation — launched by a bipartisan Republican-controlled legislative body — was somehow a partisan Democratic witch hunt, but one cannot honestly make the argument that the report concluded that Palin was "cleared of any legal wrongdoing" or "any hint of unethical activity."
The investigator did conclude that Palin’s firing of Monegan was within her power, that "although Walt Monegan’s refusal to fire Trooper 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."
But it finds that Palin "knowingly, as that term is defined in … statutes, permitted Todd Palin to use the Governor’s office and the resources of the Governor’s office, including access to state employees, to continue to contact subordinate state employees in an effort to find some way to get Trooper Wooten fired. Her conduct violated AS 39.52.110(a) of the Ethics Act…"
The report states: "I find that Governor Sarah Palin Abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act … Compliance with the code of ethics is not optional…
"The evidence supports the conclusion that Governor Palin, at the least, engaged in ‘official action’ by her inaction if not her active participation or assistance to her husband in attempting to get Trooper Wooten fired [and there is evidence of her active participation.] She knowingly, as that term is defined in the above cited statutes, permitted Todd Palin to use the Governor’s office and the resources of the Governor’s office, including access to state employees, to continue to contact subordinate state employees in an effort to find some way to get Trooper Wooten fired. Her conduct violated AS 39.52.110(a) of the Ethics Act…
"Governor Palin knowingly permitted a situation to continue where impermissible pressure was placed on several subordinates in order to advance a personal agenda."
Read the report HERE.
Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt explains that when Palin says she’s been cleared of any legal or ethical violations, "She was referring to the conclusion of the report that found that she acted properly and lawfully with regard to reassigning Monegan, which was the original purpose of the investigation."
But Palin is seldom that specific.
When Palin first commented on the report she parsed.
Asked "Governor, did you abuse your power?" she said, "No, and if you read the report you’ll see that there was nothing unlawful or unethical about replacing a cabinet member. You gotta read the report, sir."
It’s true that there’s nothing "unlawful or unethical about replacing a cabinet member" in principle. And the report concluded that she had the power to fire Monegan.
But the report concluded that she had abused her power, and there was indeed something "unethical" about her behavior, insofar as it violated the state Ethics Act.
But now Palin has moved on from parsing to assertions that are not true.
"Governor," asked a reporter with the Anchorage Daily News, "finding Number One on the report was that you abused your power by violating state law. Do you think you did anything wrong at all in this Troopergate case?"
"Not at all and I’ll tell you, it, I think that you’re always going to ruffle feathers as you do what you believe is in the best interest of the people whom you are serving," Palin said. "In this case I knew that I had to have the right people in the right position at the right time in this cabinet to best serve Alaskans, and Walt Monegan was not the right person at the right time to meet the goals that we had set out in our administration. So no, not having done anything wrong, and again very much appreciating being cleared of any legal wrongdoing or unethical activity at all."
Again, not true.
She was NOT cleared, certainly not of "unethical activity."
In Altoona, Pa., at the flagship Sheetz gas station, Palin was asked to elaborate about her assertion that there was nothing "unethical or unlawful that was done."
"I’m thankful that the report has shown that, that there was no illegal or unethical activity there in my choice to replace our commissioner, so, now we look forward to working with the personnel board that the entity that is charged with looking into any activity of a governor, the lieutenant governor, or an attorney general," Palin said.
That came closer to the truth. The report did in fact conclude that Palin had the power to fire Monegan.
"Governor, if I can follow up," a reporter said, "the report says that you did abuse your authority in trying to get Officer Wooten fired. How do you respond to that charge?"
"There was no abuse of authority at all in trying to get Officer Wooten fired," Palin said.
If she was stating that as her opinion, fine, but if she was stating that as the conclusion of the report, that’s false.
"In fact, remember, Officer Wooten is still an Alaska state trooper, which is up to the commissioner, top brass in the department of public safety to decide who is worthy of wearing a badge and carrying a gun in the state of Alaska," Palin said. "And if they think that Trooper Wooten is worthy of that, that’s their decision. I don’t micromanage my commissioners and ask them to hire or fire anyone, and thankfully the truth was revealed there in that report, that showed that there was no unlawful nor unethical activity on my part."
Again, not true.
UPDATE: McCain-Palin spox Taylor Griffin writes: "The investigation set out to determine whether Gov. Palin had acted properly in reassigning Walt Monegan, it concluded that she absolutely did. The Legislative Council’s investigation offers an opinion based on a very tortured reading of the Ethics Act, but, as Legislative Council Chairman Kim Elton pointed out yesterday, it has no force in law.
"Unable to find wrongdoing under the original investigation, Mr. Branchflower tried to stretch the Ethics Act to fit facts that are well beyond the scope of the law. To say she is in violation because she did not stop Todd Palin from raising concerns with appropriate authorities about a rogue State Trooper who had threatened their family and abused the public trust really defies commonsense and has no basis in the law. Besides, as Todd pointed out in his interrogatory responses, she did ask him to ‘drop it.’
"Also, the Council made clear that the vote to make the report public was not an endorsement of its findings. In fact, five members of the council spoke up to say they do not agree with the report’s findings. The lengths that were taken to stretch the scope of the investigation to find something damaging to say, when the facts bore out that the Governor acted appropriately, show that our concerns about the politicization of this investigation were entirely justified.
"Trooper Wooten has a history of violent and intimidating behavior and threatened the life of Sarah Palin’s father. As anyone would, the Palins raised these serious concerns to the proper authorities. As Todd Palin said in his interrogatory responses, ‘I make no apologies for wanting to protect my family and wanting to publicize the injustice of a violent trooper keeping his badge and abusing the workers’ compensation system.’"