Post 'troopergate,' Palin still popular in Alaska, just not as much
Many Alaskans seem more upset with the McCain campaign's tactics during the ethics probe than with the governor.
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The McCain-Palin campaign had a similar reaction after the report was released.Skip to next paragraph
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“Today’s report shows that the Governor acted within her proper and lawful authority in the reassignment of Walt Monegan,” said a statement issued by local campaign spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton, who was part of a public-relations effort that involved almost-daily “Truth Squad” news conferences condemning the investigation and the officials involved in it, including 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,” Ms. Stapleton’s statement said.
But if anyone has politicized the investigation, it was the McCain-Palin campaign, say several lawmakers.
“There’s near-universal disgust with what the McCain campaign has done up here to local people,” says state Rep. Les Gara, an Anchorage Democrat. “They needed to pitch a story to the Lower 48, and unfortunately, they had to twist the facts to do so.”
Many Alaska officials have come to the defense of Monegan, who grew up in a Native village near the Yupik Eskimo community of Bethel before launching a law-enforcement career in Anchorage, where he eventually served as police chief.
“I don’t want to get into a big political fight ... but I cannot allow a fellow Alaska Native to have his reputation tarnished and used as a political football,” said Julie Kitka, president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, in a Sept. 27 opinion column in The Anchorage Daily News. “No one has done more to address the law enforcement needs of rural Alaska than Walt Monegan.”
As for legislative responses to the report, options are limited, says Senate President Green. The legislature is not currently in session, so a censure resolution seems unlikely, she says. It is possible that someone will use the report as the basis for a separate ethics complaint and an additional investigation in the future, but there is no crime charged, she says. Lawmakers may pass some bills to tighten controls over executive personnel matters, she says.
Representative Gara, for one, is not seeking any punishment. “I really just want an apology. I want those responsible in the McCain campaign to apologize to all the people they’ve tried to trash in the process,” he says.
The troopergate episode has contributed to some erosion in Palin’s once-stratospheric popularity in Alaska, according to local pollsters. Her in-state approval rating has dropped from a high of about 85 percent to 65 percent, says Anchorage pollster and political consultant Ivan Moore. “I can anticipate that her rating will drop off into the 50s, maybe even the low 50s,” Mr. Moore says. Still, Palin’s approval ratings remain high overall, and she has a stong base of backers – currently at 45 percent – who give her very high marks, he says.
The ethics woes for Palin may not be over.
At the same time that lawmakers on Friday were hearing Branchflower review his findings, a state Superior Court judge ordered Palin to preserve e-mails, dating back to the time she took office, that she sent and received on her private Yahoo account. That order came in response to an Oct. 2 lawsuit filed by a former Palin supporter who believes the governor and her husband have been using private e-mail accounts to keep their activities out of the public eye, in violation of state public-records laws and standard public information practices.
“Nobody in their right mind would ever think of using a private e-mail address to conduct state business consistently,” says the plaintiff, Anchorage activist Andree McLeod, a Republican who says she has become disenchanted with the governor.
Ms. McLeod says she does not know how many private e-mails contain government-related information. “What I do know is a secret government is a corrupt government,” she says.