The politically charged investigation into Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is over, and its conclusions are stinging. But the fallout, if any, might not come until Election Day.
A legislative investigator found that Palin violated state ethics laws and abused her power by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper.
The next move may be at the ballot box. The legislative committee that released the report Friday recommends no criminal investigation and has no authority to sanction the governor, the Republican vice presidential nominee.
If voters believe the report's finding and it tarnishes Palin's reputation as a reformer and a champion for good government, that could hurt Republican presidential nominee John McCain in the final weeks of the race.
Attorney Bill Dyer, blogging at Hugh Hewitt's blog, posted his assessment of the Troopergate report yesterday. He had a slightly different take on the report (emphasis in the original):
Please understand this, if you take nothing else away from reading this post: The Branchflower Report is a series of guess and insupportable conclusions drawn by exactly one guy, and it hasn't been approved or adopted or endorsed by so much as a single sub-committee of the Alaska Legislature, much less any kind of commission, court, jury, or other proper adjudicatory body. It contains no new bombshells in terms of factual revelations. Rather, it's just Steve Branchflower's opinion — after being hired and directed by one of Gov. Palin's most vocal opponents and one of Alaska's staunchest Obama supporters — that he thinks Gov. Palin had, at worst, mixed motives for an action that even Branchflower admits she unquestionably had both (a) the complete right to perform and (b) other very good reasons to perform.
Here are the two key "findings," however (from page 8 of the .pdf file; boldface mine [Dyer's]):
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) providesThe 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.
Here's a note to Mr. Branchflower, who clearly is verbose, but obviously none too keen a scholar of logic: Gov. Palin's so-called "firing" of Monegan (it wasn't a firing, it was a re-assignment to other government duties that he resigned rather than accept) can't simultaneously be a violation of the Ethics Act and "a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority." This, gentle readers, is a 263-page piece of political circus that actually explicitly refutes itself on its single most key page!
When you see or hear Obama supporters crowing about Palin's "abuse of power" and calling for her to withdraw from the race, now you know what to say.
I wonder if Obama's "Stop the Smears" website will try to stop this smear...