The Sarah Palin – Troopergate Timeline: A Sordid Trail of Corruption, Squalor and Lies
I take no relish in re-tracing the squalorous, trashy trail of Sarah’s Palin’s corrupt political life. In fact, I resent like hell the need to do this. It’s exhausting, maddening, sickening, depressing, dirty work. Were the evening news, the cable news and the press doing their job in presenting the full facts of this case, outright, it would not be up to rinky-dink bloggers like me to cob together these facts, as they exist, into a cohesive body of truth.
On that note, here is the convoluted and excruciatingly long timeline on Troopergate — but one of many scandals littering the short (up to this point) span of Palin’s political career. The links at the bottom of the page substantiate every single word in this post. Palin’s quotes are in red:
April 11, 2005
Eighteen months before Sarah Palin was elected governor, her sister, Molly McCann, filed for divorce from her husband, Mike Wooten. This marked the beginning of a fierce custody battle and an investigation into allegations made by the Palin family against Trooper Mike Wooten. According to state documents, Palin and her husband, Todd, hired a private investigator shortly thereafter (approx. June 2005). Sarah also wrote a letter to Alaska Safety Commissioner, Walt Monegan, alleging that Trooper Wooten had threatened to harm her sister and father, and had engaged in numerous instances of misconduct, including using a stun gun on his 10-year-old stepson.
March 1, 2006
After a yearlong investigation (actually, there were more than 20 internal investigations into the Palin family allegations), Wooten was found guilty of 4 misconduct charges: killing a moose while using his wife’s permit, drinking a beer before driving a state vehicle, having an open beer can in the vehicle, and violating state policy by demonstrating the Taser’s test setting on his son. Wooten acknowledged the moose and Taser charges, but denied the beer charges. All four charges were nonetheless sustained. Regarding the Taser incident — which had happened several years earlier— Trooper Wooten told investigators he had, at his son’s request, showed him how the Taser felt, by using the test-setting, which is said to be weaker than an electric fence charge, and is the setting that troopers use on themselves, as a training aide. At the time of the incident, Wooten’s wife, Molly, was at home — as they were still married. According to testimony in the case, the son thought it was fun and wanted to do it again, while wife, Molly, along with the rest of the Palin clan, thought the incident to be humorous — or, at least they thought so until the divorce, a few years later. According to the internal police investigation, Wooten’s misconduct was not his demonstration of the Taser’s test-setting on the son, but was using state property for personal use. Wooten said, in retrospect, that he deeply regretted the incident. The investigation failed to sustain the death-threat allegations waged by the Palin family. Wooten was disciplined for the 4 (above mentioned) misconduct charges with a letter of warning and a 5-day suspension beginning on March 1, 2006. The letter warned that if he “messed up again” he’d be fired.
Sarah Palin was sworn in as Governor of Alaska.
January – February 2007
In January 2007, Todd Palin invited Public Safety Commissioner Monegan to the governor’s office, where Todd Palin urged Monegan to reopen the Wooten case. After checking on it, Monegan said he informed Todd Palinthat he couldn’t do anything because the matter had been processed and the case was closed. In an interview with the Washington Post, Monegan said that a few days later, the governor also called him about the Wooten matter and he gave her the same answer. Monegan said Gov. Palin brought the issue up again in a February 2007 meeting at the state capitol, prompting him to warn Gov. Palin that she should back off.
During this same time period, Sarah and Todd began what has been termed a “rogue investigation,” that was to last for months, over a worker’s compensation claim made by Wooten. The Palins alleged that Wooten was faking a job-related injury he claimed in January 2007, when he suffered a back injury while pulling a dead body from a wrecked automobile and slipped on icy pavement. After Wooten started receiving workers comp, Todd Palin began following him around “snapping pictures.” Palin’s office added these pictures to a dossier of information against Wooten, which they turned over to the state’s workers compensation board, purportedly to prove that Wooten was not too sick or injured to work.
Seemingly our of the blue, Trooper Wooten’s workers comp claim was contravened, which means he received a letter saying he wasn’t entitled to benefits anymore. According to amended state documents, his injury was deemed to be the result of a preexisting condition from the his days in the U.S. Air Force, and notfrom the slippery ice fall he sustained. According to John Cyr, executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association which represents Wooten and other state troopers, Wooten “hired an attorney and filed a counterclaim against the state.”
Several days before the Alaska State Fair, Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan got a phone call from the director of Palin’s Anchorage office asking that the trooper, Mike Wooten, not be assigned to work at a state fair, where he had volunteered for duty in full costume as “Safety Bear,” a child-friendly mascot. The reason provided by the gubernatorial aide was that Palin “was also planning to attend and did not want the trooper nearby.”
According to John Cyr, there was a settlement in November 2007 in which Wooten underwent a back operation. In Cyr’s words, “This was a serious injury and he was flat broke and had to file for bankruptcy because his claims were denied.” Cyr accused Palin of abusing her power. “There was absolutely a personal vendetta against this trooper by the governor and the governor’s staff.”
July 11, 2008
Palin fires Commissioner Walt Monegan. In her statement on the firing, Palin said that she wanted “a new direction.” The firing took place, via an intermediary, while Palin was at a meeting in Philadelphia. Monegan alleged that his failure to fire Trooper Wooten may have been a factor in his firing. He stated that Palin’shusband, as well as members of the governor’s administration, had talked with him about the accusations against Wooten, which he considered improper. Palin responded that she had “never put pressure on Walt Monegan to fire – hire or fire – anybody.”
At a Public Safety Employees Association press conference, Wooten’s released his packet of investigative papers (482 pages plus hours of recorded interviews) asking the public to read them and judge for themselves. Included in the packet was a letter written by Palin, in which she enumerated the earlier allegations against Wooten and suggested that many consider Wooten a ticking time-bomb. Palin continued to maintain, at this time, that Monegan’sfiring had nothing to do with his refusal to fire Wooten. On July 28, Palin’soffice issued a statement that she “will cooperate fully” with the investigation.
July 28, 2008
The Alaska Legislative Council – a bipartisan panel composed of 10 Republicans and 4 Democrats — authorized, by unanimous vote, a probe into the “Troopergate” allegations.
July 31, 2008
In a CNBC interview (her infamous “What is it exactly that the VP does every day?” interview, see video below) Sarah Paln responded to questions on Troopergate, saying that she looked foward to an investigation into the charges against her: “A couple of lawmakers who were pretty angry with me for replacing him, an at-will political appointment who was serving in my Cabinet — which every governor does — a couple lawmakers who weren’t happy with that decision certainly were looking at me as kind of a target right now and wanting to probe and find out why I did replace this, uh, Cabinet member, and it’s cool. I want them to ask me the questions. I don’t have anything to hide and, um, didn’t do anything wrong there, and it is a governor’s prerogative, a right, to fill that cabinet with members whom she or he believes will, um, do best for the people who we are serving, so I look forward to any kind of investigation or questions being asked because I’ve got nothing to hide.”
When asked why she fired Monegan, she said,
“I’m glad that you’re asking, because I never tried to fire a former brother-in-law, who’s been divorced from my sister for quite some time. No, it was the commissioner, uh, that we were seeking more results, more action to fill vacant trooper positions to deal with bootlegging and alcohol problems in our rural villages especially, just needed, uh, a new direction, a lot of new energy in that position, um, that is why the replacement took place there of the Commissioner of Public Safety. It had nothing to do with an estranged, former brother-in-law, a divorce that had happened some years ago.”
August 13, 2008
An audio tape surfaces, proving Monegan’s claims that — while he was never directly told by Palin or anyone to fire Wooten — he was contacted many times by Palin, members of her administration and her husband, Todd Palin, in calls and emails that raised issues about Wooten’s employment. One of the recorded calls took place between Frank Bailey, Gov. Palin’s Director of Boards and Commissions, and an Alaska state trooper serving as a liaison to the Legislature. Bailey is heard saying, “Todd and Sarah are scratching their heads, why on earth hasn’t, why is this guy still representing the department? He’s a horrible recruiting tool. … You know, I mean from their perspective, everyone’s protecting him.” (the Troopergate news begins at 0:33 on the video below).
August 14, 2008
In the wake of the audio-tape’s ‘gotcha-moment,’ Palin was forced to acknowledge on August 14th that at least dozens (three dozen, as the investigation would later show) of calls were made from her staff members to Monegan’s office, questioning Wooten’s employment, which “could be perceived as pressure.” Gov. Palin denied orchestrating the calls.
August 21, 2008
It was one week before John McCain announced his selection of Sarah Palin for the VP candidacy. A routing slip, dated August 21, indicated that Wooten’s workers comp file had been pulled from the Alaska Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development and sent to the attention of Mike Mongale (not to be confused with Walt Monegan), a state manager with the workers compensation division. The routing slip was marked: “Wooten, as requested,” and was made out tot he attention of Mongale. According to a note faxed to John Cyr from the workers compensation division: “A request came in to return all of Wooten’s [workers comp] files to Juneau [the state capital]. The person who asked to route the files was told the files were being copied for the governor.”
Friday, August 29, 2008
John McCain announces his selection of Sarah Palin to fill the VP slot on his ticket. Sarah Palin hires attorney Thomas V. Van Flein to represent herself and the Governor’s Office in the investigation. Van Fleinreleased a statement that read, “We fully welcome a fair inquiry into these allegations. Please know that we intend to cooperate with this investigation.”
Simultaneously, Palin — via her attorney Van Flein — moved that the ethics investigation be dismissed, using the argument that the investigation should be turned over to the State Personnel Board (staffed by Palin’s political appointees, who would be subject to firing by Palin, if she so chose) , instead of being conducted by the Alaskan Legislative Council. Gov. Palin was to later expainthis move during her ABC interview with Charlie Gibson: “Our state statute says, if there’s a question about actions of the governor, you go to the Personnel Board. So we’ve said all along that that’s appropriate.”
August 30, 2008
The McCain campaign releases a statement that reads: “Governor Palin dismissed Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan because of an honest disagreement over budget priorities – that’s it. The allegation that Governor Palin retaliated against Commissioner Monegan for not firing Trooper Wooten is cut from whole cloth. [Gov. Palin] did nothing wrong and has nothing to hide.”
September 1, 2008
Replying by letter to Friday’s letter from Palin’s attorney, State Sen. Hollis French (appointed by the legislature to manage the investigation) explained to Van Flein that — while the Personnel Board investigates complaints brought under state ethics laws — “the Legislature, of course, has its own separate powers of investigation. I hope you are not suggesting that the legislature does not have the authority to investigate potential violations of law by members of the Executive Branch.”
Sen. Hollis French also noted that the Legislative Council had not yet received a response their request for an interview with Gov. Palin. “I am requesting that you set a September date for the Governor’s deposition … by the close of business this Friday,” French wrote. “Delays in witness interviews will jeopardize the timely conclusion of this investigation. Indeed, delays would cause me to convene a meeting of the Judiciary Committee and ask that subpoenas be considered.”
The McCain/Palin campaign did not reply to questions about whether Palin would voluntarily provide a deposition, and her attorney did not return calls requesting comment, although McCain campaign spokeswoman, Maria Comella, did issue a statement: “The bottom line is Governor Palin has a proven record championing transparency in government and we are confident in that record.”
September 2, 2008
The McCain campaign began questioning the legitimacy of the Legislative Council’s investigation, as McCain spokesmen and allies in Anchorage began contending that the probe had become “tainted” and “politicized” by Obama supporters
September 13, 2008
Investigators decide to subpoena 13 witnesses in the Troopergate case, including Todd Palin, to investigate whether pressure was applied from the governor’s office to deny Trooper Wooten’s workers compensation claim. Investigator Steve Branchflower said he wanted to interview Gov. Palin, but stopped short of issuing her a subpoena, because it would look bad to have the Governor or future Vice President subpoenaed.
September 16, 2008
McCain campaign lawyers try to either end the investigation or delay it until after the election. Former Justice Department prosecutor Edward O’Callaghan, now working for the McCain campaign, told reporters that Palin was “unlikely to cooperate” with the Alaskan legislative inquiry into Monegan’s firing because it had been “tainted” by politics. O’Callaghan stated that the McCain campaign was directing an aggressive legal strategy to shut down a pre-election ethics investigation.
In this spirit, Van Flein and O’Callaghanfiled a new motion with the Personnel Board. This one argued that, after a review of the evidence, including internal e-mails within the governor’s office, the governor’s lawyers had determined there was “no probable cause” to pursue any ethics inquiry into Palin at all. As a result, it argued, the previous motion for an ethics inquiry (which Van Flein himself had filed just two weeks earlier) should be dismissed. According to O’Callaghan, “There was no Ethics Act violation and there is no need to go forward with this.”
October 1, 2008
(Here, the squalor grows even more corrupt and complicated. These developments are very important to understanding Palin’s “governing style,”in general, and Troopergate, in particular).
In a bombshell development, Murlene Wilkes, a key witness in the “Troopergate” investigation was forced to reverse her earlier (August) testimony in defense of Sarah Palin, after it was revealed she’d lied in her earlier statements to Steve Branchflower (lead investigator in the Troopergate probe). MurleneWilkes is the owner of Harbor Adjustment Services in Anchorage Alaska — a company that contracts with the state to handle all workers compensation claims for the State of Alaska. In Murlene Wilkes Augusttestimony, she had initially denied ever talking to anyone in the governor’s office about the Wooten file, and also denied ever seeing the photos Todd Palin had taken of Trooper Wooten.
Forced to back off of her earlier defense of Palin, Murlene Wilkes admitted in her October 1st testimony that the governor’s associates had, indeed, applied pressure to deny workers compensation to Wooten. In her corrected testimony, Wilkes admitted to a state investigator that she had received phone calls and personal visits from advisers to Palin, including her husband, Todd Palin, the officials said. Further, Wilkes testified that she was told to deny workers compensation to Trooper Mike Wooten, because he supposedly was lying about his physical condition.
This particular twist in the story is important because — in the wake of denying Wooten’s workers compensation claim in 2007 — Wilkes’ company, Harbor Adjustment Services, received a renewal of their $1.2 million contract with the state, only the renewal was raised to $1.5 million, and was awarded despite lower competing bids. One losing firm has since appealed the contract award.
An Alaska judge refused to block the state ethics investigation. Judge Peter Michalski threw out the lawsuit filed by five Republican state legislators who said the investigation had been tainted by partisan politics and was being manipulated to damage Palin shortly before the Nov. 4 presidential election. “It is legitimately within the scope of the legislature’s investigatory power to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the termination (of) a public officer the legislature had previously confirmed,” the judge wrote in his decision.
Judge Michalski also threw out a lawsuit filed by Palin aides seeking to dismiss the subpoenas compelling their testimony in the investigation. The aides argued that the subpoenas should not have to be honored, because they shouldn’t have been issued in the first place.
As of this date, Todd Palin and several other top aides had still not testified, refusing to appear, despite the subpoenas. Todd and Sarah Palin, along with some of her staff, continue to assert that the legislative investigation has been compromised by politics and that they would only cooperate with a separate investigation run by the Alaska State Personnel Board (whose members, remember, could be fired by Palin, if she so chose).
October 3, 2008
The Alaska Supreme Court agreed to hear an emergency appeal from lawyers seeking to shut down the Legislature’s Troopergate investigation of Gov. Sarah Palin. The action came one day after Anchorage Superior Court Judge Peter Michalski threw out their lawsuit attempting to halt the Legislature’s investigation into Troopergate. The suit was filed by Texas-based Liberty Legal Institute and Anchorage attorney Kevin Clarkson, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Alaska Republican state legislators opposed to their colleagues’ investigation.
October 9, 2008
The Alaska Supreme Court rejected an attempt by a group of six Republican legislators to shut down the Legislature’s investigation of Gov. Sarah Palin. This meant that Steve Branchflower, the investigator hired by the Legislative Council, would release his report as scheduled on October 10th.
In a related development, the McCain campaign released its own “report,” clearing Palin of any wrongdoing. In their 21-page statement, the McCain campaign alleged that the whole Troopergate investigation was a plot between Trooper Wooten and an angry blogger, saying: “It is tragic that a false story hatched by a blogger after 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.”
Although the McCain campaign’s statement described Wooten as a separate issue from the Monegan firing, the McCain campaign went into great detail about the “rogue” trooper and his “long history of unstable and erratic behavior.” Seemingly oblivious to the fact that Wooten had already been investigated and alternately disciplined/cleared in March 2006 for the charges waged against him by the Palin family, the McCain campaign nonetheless described allegations of violence, including threatening Palin’sfamily and shooting his stepson with a stun gun. The McCain campaign statement also included allegations that Wooten cheated the workers’ compensation system. Todd Palinwas now saying that he’d had numerous conversations with government officials about why Wooten was allowed to stay on the job.
According to a McCain campaign statement: “The Palins make no apologies for wanting to protect their family and wanting to bring attention to the injustice of a violent trooper keeping his badge and abusing the workers’ compensation system. But Todd Palin said he never pressured anyone, including his wife.”
The McCain campaign also said that the investigation has become “muddied with innuendo, rumor and partisan politics.”
October 10, 2008
INVESTIGATION FINDS SARAH PALIN GUILTY OF ABUSE OF POWER
Sarah Palin abused her power when she fired her Public Safety Commissioner this July, a state investigation has concluded.
“I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch ethics act,” Branchflower said in the 263-page report to the Legislative Council released Friday afternoon.
“Alaska statute 39.52.110(a) provides ‘the 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,'” Branchflower continued.
His findings were presented to the Legislative Council Friday morning. The Council then met in a closed-door executive session for more than six hours as it reviewed the report. Friday afternoon the council voted unanimously to release the report to the public.Branchflower concluded that Monegan’s refusal to fire Trooper Mike Wooten, Palin’s former brother in-law, was “likely a contributing factor to his termination” but “not the sole reason.”
Still, Palin’s dismissal of Monegan “was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads,” Branchflower said in the report. Branchflower also said Palin’sattorney general failed to provide him with emails of Palin’s that he had requested as part of the probe.
The report also found that Wooten’s workers’ compensation claim was handled properly, and that Wooten “received all the workers’ compensation benefits to which he was entitled.”
The above words, that Monegan’s refusal to fire Wooten was “not the sole reason” will surely be parroted for all eternity, or the next few weeks (whichever ends first) by the McCain campaign.
[Editor’s note: It is unlikely the votes would be there for impeachment, but some censure is possible, if not likely. More, if anything, on this later….]
Spin City, here we come.
According to an ABC news report, Palin Makes Troopergate Assertions that Are Flatly False, “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 alllowed.”
[No follow-ups? Huh?]
In this call, Palin said, “Well, I’m very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing, any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that.”
[On this note I’m putting a punctuation point on this Troopergate timeline. As Forrest Gump might say, “Squalor is as squalor does.”]
by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers
BONUS RESOURCE ON TIMELINE: In case you missed it, Bellflower has an excellent and succinct “Super duper Troopergate Timeline” that includes a few details I overlooked.
ABC— Palin Denies Monegan Firing is Connected to Wooten Custody Battle
Washington Post: Palin’s Ex-Brother-in-Law Says He Regrets Bad Blood
McClatchy: Did Alaska’s Palin try to force firing of her ex-brother-in-law?
Huffington Post: Palin Hires Lawyer for Troopergate
Daily KOS: Palin files complaint against herself in a bid to stop investigation
AP: Troopergate probe running into new resistence
Anchorage Daily News: Lawmakers to Subpoena 13 in Troopergate — Investigators want to know if a workers compensation employee was pressured
mudflats: New McCain Stall of Troopergate Investigation: Part Karl Rove, Part Laurel & Hardy
Consortium News: New Witness Said to Implicate Palin
Newsweek: Can He Stop Troopergate? A McCain lawyer scrambles to block a Palin ethics inquiry
New York Times: Palins repeatedly pressed case against trooper
Huffington Post: McCain camp clears Palin of any wrongdoing in Troopergate before the State’s report is even issued
CBS: Judge Lets Palin Troopergate Probe Proceed
Anchorage Daily News: Judge Refuses to Halt Troopergate Probe
Anchorage Daily News: Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Troopergate Appeal
Anchorage Daily News: Supreme Court Won’t Block Troopergate Inquiry
KTUU News (Alaska) : Branchflower: Palin Abused Power
canarypapers: The Categorical Lies of Sarah Palin, Categorically Arranged