She broke the law.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin violated ethics laws and abused her power as governor in pressing to have her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper, an independent legislative investigation concluded today.
In a report whose release was the subject of a high-stakes political showdown that went all the way to the Alaska Supreme Court, investigator Stephen Branchflower concluded that Palin communicated her displeasure with the trooper, Mike Wooten, and allowed her husband to apply pressure to have Wooten fired.
The report also found that Palin's unhappiness that Wooten had not been fired was "a likely contributing factor" in the firing of former Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan. Monegan testified that he had received repeated communications from Palin and her husband over Wooten.
However, the Wooten issue was "not the sole reason" Monegan was fired, the report said. Palin, who has been fighting off allegations of wrongdoing in the so-called Troopergate case since Republican presidential nominee John McCain's running mate, has insisted Monegan was fired because he ignored her demands to cut budgets in his department.
The governor's husband, Todd Palin, has admitted he advocated forcefully to have Wooten removed because of his allegedly inappropriate actions, including driving under the influence of alcohol, shooting a moose without a permit, threatening Sarah Palin's father and giving his son a slight jab with an electric Taser gun.
"The evidence supports the conclusion that Gov. 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," the report said, adding that "there is evidence of her active participation."
The report found that Palin "knowingly, as that term is defined in the [ethics] 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."
This activity was in violation of the state Ethics Act, the report said, which holds that public officials have a duty of public trust that prevents them from attempting to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action.
Update: I've waded through a portion of the findings (pdf) and so far have drawn the following conclusions from the report.
Palin told Monegan to fire her brother-in-law Mike Wooten.
Palin subsequently fired Monegan, but the firing of Monegan was not illegal - she had the right to fire without cause (without having to justify it with reasons for the firing).
But pressuring Monegan and others to do things like get her brother-in-law Mike Wooten fired, or not get hired by the Wasilla Police Department, was an ethics law violation.
She did not violate the law by firing Monegan.
She did violate ethics laws by using her executive position in attempting to get Wooten fired, and otherwise doing "harm" to her brother-in-law.
The findings include evidence that Palin personally called Monegan in an attempt to get Wooten fired.
Sarah was directly involved.
She also stood by while Todd also attempted to get Wooten fired, and was found at fault for not stopping Todd.
"She violated Alaska Statute 39.52.010 by "acting upon personal or financial interests in the performance of their public responsibilities."
In her official capacity as Governor, Sarah Palin "acted upon personal interests" in trying to get her brother-in-law fired.
Nathan Thornburgh at Time cuts to the nut of the matter:
The 263 pages of the report show a co-ordinated application of pressure on Monegan so transparent and ham-handed that it was almost certain to end in public embarrassment for the governor. The only surprise is that Troopergate is national news, not just a sorry piece of political gristle to be chewed on by Alaska politicos over steaks at Anchorage's Club Paris.
A harsh verdict? Consider the report's findings. Not only did people at almost every level of the Palin administration engage in repeated inappropriate contact with Walt Monegan and other high-ranking officials at the Department of Public Safety, but Monegan and his peers constantly warned these Palin disciples that the contact was inappropriate and probably unlawful. Still, the emails and calls continued -- in at least one instance on recorded state trooper phone lines.
Small town Wasilla-like politics played out on a large, statewide scale - just days after Sarah Palin became Governor..
And yet Palin wasn't smart enough to heed Monegan's hints to back down -- she kept on coming -- like a pit bull.
Pit bulls may be mean, but they're not the smartest dog in the park, just the most stubborn.
Update: Palin responds to a reporter asking if she abused her power in Alaska:
Note that she only references the finding that she did not act illegally by firing Monegan -- conveniently ignoring the reporter's question and the fact that she abused her power and violated ethics laws by pushing to get Mike Wooten fired. She's apparently been practicing her talking points.
She avoids the question and gets on the bus. Nice job, Sarah. Run - the truth is catching up to you. Run, Sarah, run....
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