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It’s official. Tomorrow, former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan will file his paperwork, and throw his hat in the ring as a candidate for the Anchorage mayoral seat about to be vacated by current Mayor Mark Begich.

Begich will head to Washington D.C. as Alaskas Junior Senator and leave the Chair of the Anchorage Assembly, Matt Claman in the role of Acting Mayor until the election in the spring.

Matt Claman has been unwilling to say whether he will run for the seat he will temporarily occupy between January and April, or not. My guess is that he will not. His wishy-washiness to date has been aggravating, and the fact that there are already two strong progressive candidates in Croft and Selkregg means that the addition of Claman and the potential splitting of the vote could feasibly result in Dan Sullivan being elected, which many would consider disastrous.

The mayoral field is crowded. Monegan will be running against Anchorage Assembly member Sheila Selkregg, former legislator Eric Croft, former Assembly member Dan Sullivan, and former police spokesman Paul Honeman.

Monegan has recently spoken at the Bartlett Democratic Club Luncheon, and also at the University of Alaska. The theme for his talks was “ethics in government.” Alaskans are generally not familiar with that term.

And what does he have to say about the ethics of our current Governor?

“I think there could be improvement. Let me put it that way.”

Monegan is not giving details of his campaign until the paperwork is filed tomorrow.

His ouster at the hands of Sarah Palin, and the ensuing ethics investigation which found her guilty of abuse of power had the effect of catapulting Monegan into the national spotlight. His support in Anchorage is widespread both among law enforcement personnel and the public at large. He will be a formidable opponent.

Let the games begin!

Source: Mudflats

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ANCHORAGE — Gov. Sarah Palin has returned to Alaska fully recast and amplified.

Adored by many national conservatives, Ms. Palin is a prospect for a presidential run in 2012, supporters say. Caricatured by opponents, she is a candidate for political oblivion, say others.

Regardless, Ms. Palin told reporters the day after Election Day, “This has been all positive for me.”

Alaska, too, has been recast and amplified in the 10 weeks since Ms. Palin soared to national prominence as the Republican nominee for vice president, and the process has not necessarily been all positive.

Oil prices, which provide the bulk of state revenue, were well over $100 a barrel in late August when Ms. Palin left to campaign with Senator John McCain. Now they are slumming south of $60 a barrel, below the level required to balance the state budget. Increased scrutiny of Ms. Palin’s time as governor often painted an unflattering portrait of her administration. Investigative news reports have portrayed Ms. Palin as being consumed with personal matters and vindictiveness, particularly in the controversy over the firing of her public safety commissioner in what has become known as Troopergate.

Many Democrats, her allies in passing key legislation to raise taxes on oil companies and spur development of a natural gas pipeline, are outraged by her partisan attacks on now President-elect Barack Obama and on the tactics of the McCain-Palin campaign here at home.

Within the state’s Republican establishment — never Ms. Palin’s comfort zone — there is tension over the fate of Senator Ted Stevens, who was convicted last month of failing to disclose gifts and free home renovations he received. Ms. Palin called on Mr. Stevens to resign even as state Republicans urged his re-election. A preliminary vote count suggests he could win a seventh full term.

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Even if Mr. Stevens wins, he could still be forced to resign, and Ms. Palin is widely viewed as a strong candidate to win his seat in the special election that would have to be held to replace him.

Ms. Palin has largely dodged questions about her long-term political future, and as she gets back to governing full time, few people know what to expect from her in the immediate future.

“She’s coming back to a whole different world from when she left,” said State Representative John Coghill, a Republican from North Pole who is chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee. “If she comes back with a puffed up ego there’s going to be problems. But if she comes back ready to work, that will be better.”

Ms. Palin, in an interview in her office on Friday, said she was ready to work.

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“Now we kick in that fiscal conservativeness that needs to be engaged, and we progress this state with $57-a-barrel oil,” Ms. Palin said. She said the state would have to “be prudent with public dollars and provide services more efficiently than have ever been provided in the state of Alaska before.”

The price and production of oil determines state finances: taxes on oil bring in about 85 percent of state revenue. To balance the budget for the 2008-9 fiscal year, the price of oil needs to average $74 over the 12 months, said Karen J. Rehfeld, director of the state office of management and budget. If it falls below that average, the state could have to make emergency cuts or dip into a reserve account that contains several billion dollars. High prices early in the fiscal year may help keep the average up this year, but next year is another matter.

Ms. Palin, first elected governor in 2006, has governed only in times of budget surpluses, and lawmakers said they had many questions about how she would lead now.

“I just don’t know what kind of philosophy she’s going to have when she comes back,” said State Representative John Harris, a Republican and the departing House speaker.

Noting that his chief of staff, John Bitney, was once the governor’s legislative director, Mr. Harris added, “We were just trying to figure out what kind of policy things the governor may want to address and we were kind of scratching our heads, because we don’t know.”

Mr. Harris was among several lawmakers who questioned whether Ms. Palin would spend the rest of her term, which ends in 2010, positioning herself to run for national office. Would she pursue a socially conservative agenda, promoting bills to restrict abortion or gay rights, issues she largely passed on in her first two years in office because she was trying to win support from Democrats on other issues? Would she move to the center? Would she continue to rail against “the old boy network,” stoking her reformist image at the expense of her fellow Republicans, whose party has been tarnished by corruption scandals, including that of Mr. Stevens?

Ms. Palin rejected the idea that she would be playing to a larger audience.

“My actions will continue to be first and foremost in good service to the state of Alaska,” she said in the interview.

But other than suggesting that cost cuts were to come, Ms. Palin did not hint at a broader agenda.

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The governor is due to submit her 2009-10 budget next month, and neither she nor her aides offered specifics about what it might contain. The McCain-Palin campaign portrayed Ms. Palin as an energy expert, and one top priority Ms. Palin expressed well before she was selected to run for the vice presidency was to improve energy sources for different parts of the state. That includes finding cheaper sources of energy for rural villages, which often rely on inefficient diesel power, as well as for cities like Fairbanks, the state’s second largest, where utilities rely on oil and coal.

The state also faces questions over issues like financing Medicaid, increasing mining in environmentally sensitive areas and spending on transportation projects, as well as the complex negotiations involved in trying to develop the gas pipeline with the cooperation of the same oil companies whose taxes Ms. Palin has raised.

Ms. Palin’s partisanship on the campaign trail may be what most surprised people at home.

“She’s coming back to a divided state, where Democrats had supported her but they watched her for two months call the president-elect of the United States a terrorist sympathizer,” said State Representative Les Gara, Democratic of Anchorage. “She called him a socialist.”

Her partisanship also surprised some conservative Republicans, who were accustomed to feeling ignored while Ms. Palin nurtured alliances with Democrats and moderate Republicans. Now, some Republicans who have been at odds with Ms. Palin in the past are wondering if her partisan tone on the campaign trail might mean they will have her ear more than before.

“It appears that way,” said Mr. Coghill, the Republican from North Pole. Mr. Coghill said Ms. Palin’s emphasis on socially conservative issues on the campaign trail has helped persuade him that now is the time to ask Ms. Palin to actively support a bill that would require minors seeking abortions to notify their parents in advance.

“There are some people in our caucus who are skeptical” that Ms. Palin might ally herself more with Republicans now, Mr. Coghill said. “But they’re willing to take the chance, to step up and play.”

Ms. Palin suggested in the interview that how she ran for vice president would not shape how she governs Alaska.

“If anybody wants to try to criticize and say, ‘Oh, all of a sudden she’s an obsessive partisan,’ they’re wrong,” she said.

But she did allow that she thinks beyond her current role.

“Around every corner is something new,” Ms. Palin said, “so I look forward to seeing what happens next. But for now, it’s great to be back in the governor’s office.”

nyt-logoprinter

This picture is classic – because it says – does Sarah Palin know what the truth is. If the truth is out there – with Palin it’s – is the truth in there? You can see she is trying to convince the crowd of something – but you know it is so not true. She is amazing in that she lies with such ease.

Until the Republican Convention, very few had ever heard of Sarah Palin… and now this mean-spirited campaigner is asking who is Barack Obama?

I’m asking who is Sarah Palin?

I know that she’s a woman who doesn’t believe in allowing women the right to choose their own reproductive health decisions even if they are victims of rape… but approves of these victims getting billed by the government for the rape kits used to examine them.

I know she’s a beauty pageant runner-up who is a gun totin’ extremist in her views on the environment, religion, women’s choice and the separation of church and state.

I know she’s a woman who along with John McCain would divide this country while pledging that she and the Senator are “mavericks” who know how to reach across the aisle.

I know that as mayor of the small town of Wasilla she increased spending by 63% and left behind a $19 million long-term debt, which was non-existent before she took office.

I know she hired the same good-ol’-boy network of Washington lobbyists she says she will fight if elected, in order to secure millions of dollars of earmarks for Wasilla.

“after eight years of Republican control that has left this country in deep distress… they should lose”

I know that she’s been found guilty of abusing her power as governor by pressuring a state official to fire her former brother-in-law and then firing the official when he refused… an investigation that began prior to her selection as vice president.

And I know that the American public has had less than two months to vet Sarah Palin, and during this time the press has had to fight tooth and nail to secure just two network interviews with her… while she still refuses to appear on the tougher Sunday news shows.

On the stump, Sarah Palin and John McCain continue to avoid addressing the critical issues facing our country. Neither of them provides any substantive conversation on what they will do to steer our country on a journey back to prosperity. Palin’s sheer ignorance and lack of experience precludes her from speaking thoughtfully about the financial and foreign policy dilemmas we face. And John McCain’s voting record forces him to change the subject.

McCain knows his policies have contributed to the unraveling of our financial systems due to excessive deregulation. McCain knows that he supported the war in Iraq since its inception, which has been a tremendous financial and military drain on our country. Both Sarah Palin and John McCain know that if this election continues to be about the housing market, the economy, healthcare, the environment, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — the issues that affect everyday Americans — they will lose this election. And after eight years of Republican control that has left this country in deep distress… they should lose. So now that we know who Sarah Palin is… do we want her a heartbeat away from the presidency?

Source: HP

Maddow stumped as Palin blatantly denies – Troopergate findings.

Sarah Palin, John McCain’s running mate, unlawfully abused her power as Alaska’s governor by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper, according to an ethics investigation released last night. It deals a significant blow to an already embattled Republican ticket just over three weeks until Election Day.

Two month investigation, found that Mrs Palin was motivated in part by a personal grudge when she fired Walt Monegan, the police chief

The report, released after a two month investigation, found that Mrs Palin was motivated in part by a personal grudge when she fired Walt Monegan, the police chief, after he failed to dismiss her brother-in-law, who had been involved in an ugly divorce from her sister.

The finding will be an unwelcome distraction for Mr McCain at a time when he is struggling to hold ground against his Democratic rival Barack Obama, who has been boosted by the economic crisis, an issue where significantly more voters trust him on.

Mrs Palin has always maintained that she dismissed Mr Monegan over budget disputes, but the investigator hired by a 14-member bipartisan panel of the Alaskan state legislature concluded that a personal grudge influenced her decision – although it was not the sole reason for her motive to fire him.

Mrs Palin has always maintained that she dismissed Mr Monegan over budget disputes

Mr Monegan triggered the enquiry this summer when he alleged he had been fired by Mrs Palin, the Governor of Alaska, because he refused to bow to pressure by her, her husband Todd, and members of her staff to sack Mike Wooten, Mrs Palin’s former brother-in-law.

Mr Wooten, an Alaskan state trooper, was divorced from Mrs Palin’s sister in unseemly circumstances. He has not denied tasering his 10-year-old stepson – although he says the boy requested it – and at the height of intra-family conflict the Palins allege that he threatened to kill Mrs Palin’s father.

The investigation found Mrs Palin in violation of a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain.

“I feel vindicated,,“ Mr Monegan said. “It sounds like they’ve validated my belief and opinions. And that tells me I’m not totally out in left field.”

Stephen Blanchflower, the investigator hired by the legislative committee to conduct the investigation, said he found Mrs Palin in violation of a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain. He said she violated a statute of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.

The nearly 300-page report does not recommend sanctions or a criminal investigation, but it will inevitably be seized upon by Democrats to undermine both Mrs Palin and Mr McCain, who knew about the ethics investigation before he chose her as his running mate.

The report detailed the unusually high level of access Mrs Palin’s husband, Todd, had to her top aides.

In sworn affidavits released yesterday, the man she calls ‘The First Dude of Alaska’ attempted to shoulder much of the blame for the pressure on Mr Monegan to fire Trooper Wooten.
 

Interviews and documents show that the commissioner and his aides were contacted about Trooper Wooten more than 30 times over 19 months by the governor, her husband and seven administration officials.

He defended his two-year crusade to get his former brother-in-law kicked off the state police force. He said he had been trying to get Mr Wooten fired months before Mrs Palin became governor, and that his efforts intensified after she took office. He also said that at one point she told him to “drop it”.

“I make no apologies for wanting to protect my family and wanting to publicise the injustice of a violent trooper keeping his badge,” said Mr Palin.

Interviews and documents show that the commissioner and his aides were contacted about Trooper Wooten more than 30 times over 19 months by the governor, her husband and seven administration officials. At one point Mr Palin met with Mr Monegan with a file on Mr Wooten put together by a private investigator.

Initially Mrs Palin claimed there had been no pressure on Mr Monegan to fire Mr Wooten, but this summer she was forced to concede that members of her staff made numerous calls to Mr Monegan and other state officials about Mr Wooten.

Mike Wooten divorced Mrs Palin’s sister, Molly McCann, in 2005.

In March 2006 – eight months before Mrs Palin became governor – he was given a 10-day suspension after being accused of killing a moose without a permit, unfairly claiming disability benefit and using a stun gun on his 10-year-old stepson.

Mrs Palin said Mr Monegan was never fired, insisting he had been asked to step down as public safety commissioner and was offered a position on the Alcoholic Beverage Control board, due to his “outright insubordination” and “rogue mentality” when it came to budget and policy issues.

Last week, an Anchorage judge refused to halt proceedings, after five Republican lawmakers sued to block the inquiry. Joined by a sixth legislator, they filed an emergency appeal, which was later rejected by the state high court.

In a pre-emptive attack on today’s report – and in a clear sign of their concern about it – the McCain campaign released its own version of events. Taylor Griffin, a campaign spokesman, said that their report found that the dispute between the governor and her commissioner was an entirely legitimate one, which had been skewed by Democratic bias. The McCain campaign has maintained for over a month that the investigation was politically motivated.

In a pre-emptive attack on today’s report – the McCain campaign released its own version of events.

“The following document will prove Walt Monegan’s dismissal was a result of his insubordination and budgetary clashes with Governor Palin and her administration,” campaign officials wrote. “Trooper Wooten is a separate issue.”

“It is tragic that a false story hatched by a blogger over drinks with Trooper Wooten led the legislature to allocate over $100,000 of public money to be spent in what has become a politically-driven investigation,” it concludes.

In a statement after the report’s findings were released, the McCain campaign added: “Today’s report shows that the Governor acted within her proper and lawful authority in the reassignment of Walt Monegan. The report also illustrates what we’ve known all along: this was a partisan led inquiry run by Obama supporters and the Palins were completely justified in their concern regarding Trooper Wooten given his violent and rogue behavior.

“Lacking evidence to support the original Monegan allegation, the Legislative Council seriously overreached, making a tortured argument to find fault without basis in law or fact. The Governor is looking forward to cooperating with the Personnel Board and continuing her conversation with the American people regarding the important issues facing the country.”

Source: TimesOnline London

A legislative committee investigating Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has found she unlawfully abused her authority in firing the state’s public safety commissioner.

Troopergate finding

The investigative report concludes that a family grudge wasn’t the sole reason for firing Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan but says it likely was a contributing factor.

The Republican vice presidential nominee has been accused of firing a commissioner to settle a family dispute. Palin supporters have called the investigation politically motivated.

Monegan says he was dismissed as retribution for resisting pressure to fire a state trooper involved in a bitter divorce with the governor’s sister. Palin says Monegan was fired as part of a legitimate budget dispute.

Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS


Mudflats: I’ve been waiting for this one. One of the witnesses called by Stephen Branchflower (independent investigator of the legitimate Troopergate investigation) put herself in a tricky spot.

Murlene Wilkes, owner of Harbor Adjusting Services, and holder of a $1.2 million/yr. contract with the State of Alaska to handle workers compensation claims, apparently told a big fat fib. When Branchflower asked her if the governor’s office had ever asked her to deny a workers compensation claim for Palin’s ex-brother-in-law Trooper Mike Wooten (the trooper in “Troopergate”), she said no. Never. Really.

Mike Wooten, of course, is involved in a bitter custody dispute with Palin’s sister Molly. The Palins do not like him. Some say they have made a vengeful and personal sport out of ruining his career.

Problem is, that there are actually honest people in the world….and one of them works for Murlene Wilkes at Harbor Investments. This unnamed worker made a little phone call to the tip line that Branchflower set up at the beginning of the investigation. According to the tipster, yes indeed, the governor’s office DID put pressure to deny the claim.

Hard evidence contradicting sworn testimony has a certain effect on people. Murlene Wilkes, faced with this situation, decided to change her testimony according to a report in The Public Record. Now, with the little extra incentive of avoiding perjury charges, she has admitted that she was asked to deny the claim – at the direct request of Sarah and Todd Palin.

*chin hitting desk* (a moment of stunned silence)

  • Wilkes has a $1.2 million contract with the state to handle workers compensation claims. Her contract with the state was up but her firm was recently given a new contract despite the fact that there were others who provided the state with a lower bid than Wilkes’s firm. One of the other applicants who submitted a lower bid has appealed the decision. Wilkes told Branchflower she believed it was impressed upon her from Palin’s office that she would lose the contract if she did not deny the claim, state officials knowledgeable about her testimony said.

    Although Wooten did receive worker’s compensation benefits for about three months, his claim was suddenly denied and he was forced to hire a lawyer and appeal the issue, which dragged on for more than six months. It’s unknown if Wilkes played any role in denying Wooten worker’s compensation benefits.

    According to John Cyr, the executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association, the union that represents Wooten and other state troopers, Wooten was approved for workers compensation benefits in January 2007. He filed for benefits due to a back injury he suffered when he pulled a dead body from a wrecked automobile and slipped on icy pavement.

    The same month Wooten started receiving workers compensation benefits, Todd Palin began following Wooten around “snapping pictures of him,” Cyr said.

    “Frank Bailey was getting people to say that [Wooten] was lying on his worker’s comp form,” Cyr said. “The governor’s family was following Mike around everywhere. They forwarded that information to the worker’s comp division.”

    All this information about Todd stalking Wooten came out when Troopergate first broke, well before Palin’s nomination. But, the press here didn’t follow up much. They preferred to focus on the “Is Wooten a Bad Cop?” angle of the story. That was a lot more exciting…you know…tasers, infidelity, drunk driving, illegal moose hunting…

    Troopergate, much to the dismay of the Palins, refuses to go away, and only gets worse, the longer it goes on. Worker’s compensation claims may not be ’sexy’, but some say this may end up being the final nail in the coffin of Palin’s political career.

    Branchflower’s report is due to be released on October 10th. Let the countdown to truth begin.

  • Source: Mudflats

    Alaskans speak out at the ‘Alaskans For Truth’ protest which got on its way – with a bang !!

    By the look of the signs it is clear some Alaskans are feeling bullied – by McCain -n- friends efforts to quash the legal proceedings in the Alaska Troopergate case which Palin is knee deep in. But like many others outside of Alaska there seems to a sense of disgust – at Sarah Palin’s blatant lies and untruths. The ‘Alaskans For Truth’ protest sent a clear message home to Sarah Palin – in her own state.




    Source: Mudflats, Daily Kos