Tag Archives: Kim Elton

“Going Rogue” Review: Sarah Palin Shows She Knows How to Hate; Needs Injection of Pinocchio Serum

Outgoing Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (2nd L), her husband Todd (C) look on as incoming Governor Sean Parnell (2nd R) is sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Daniel Winfree (L) during the annual Governor's Picnic July 26, 2009 at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks, Alaska. Parnell' wife Sandy held the bible for the ceremony. Craig E. Campbell was sworn in as the new Lieutenant Governor.

Outgoing Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (2nd L), her husband Todd (C) look on as incoming Governor Sean Parnell (2nd R) is sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Daniel Winfree (L) during the annual Governor's Picnic July 26, 2009 at Pioneer Park in Fairbanks, Alaska. Parnell' wife Sandy held the bible for the ceremony. Craig E. Campbell was sworn in as the new Lieutenant Governor.

Last July in Fairbanks, with Todd smiling at her side and Piper sitting in her lap, Sarah Palin watched Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell take the oath to fill out her term in office as Governor of Alaska. Then she vanished. For the past four months the Forty-Ninth State has seen neither hide nor hair of the woman. No speeches at chambers of commerce luncheons. No sightings on the street. No Sarah cheering on the sideline at Wasilla Warriors girls basketball games. No Sarah sitting in the pew on Sunday worshiping at the ChangePoint and Anchorage Baptist Temple evangelical mega churches. She’s been gone. Disappeared.

It now turns out that while Alaskans were hunkering down for winter Sarah was in San Diego working for a woman named Lynn Vincent, the ghostwriter HarperCollins hired to cobble together Going Rogue: An American Life, Sarah’s first person account of her it-only-would-happen-in-America rise from small town mayor to small state governor to Republican Vice Presidential candidate to popular culture icon.

Since Tuesday when Going Rogue was released nationwide copies of the book have been flying off the shelves at Barnes & Noble in Boise and Grand Rapids and not flying off the shelves in San Francisco and Seattle.

Since I already have enough to read, I had intended to give Going Rogue a pass until I had time this weekend to motor over to the Anchorage Barnes & Noble and give Ms. Vincent’s word-smithing a skim. But on Monday I learned that I’m in the book. Not surprisingly, that piqued my interest. And then yesterday a friend lent me a copy.

I’ve now read it. Here’s the review.

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Gov. Palin Challenges Rejection of Senate Nominee Grussendorf

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

JUNEAU – Gov. Sarah Palin said late Thursday she is refusing to accept the Alaska Senate Democrats’ rejection of Tim Grussendorf as her appointee to the state Senate.Palin said the rejection isn’t legally valid because it happened behind closed doors, and only among Democrats.

“We don’t believe that a closed door meeting of just a partisan group says yea or nay to the governor’s choice,” Palin said in an interview on Thursday night. “We believe based on a 1987 opinion of department of law, it needs to take place out in the open with a larger body than just the partisan participants.”

“I believe my selection of Tim Grussendorf is legitimate and it stands until they take that vote in an open, public forum with more than just the partisan participants,” Palin said.

Palin cited a 1987 legal opinion that challenges the constitutionality of the state law that sets out how lawmakers should confirm an appointee to an open legislative seat.  Anchorage Democratic Sen. Hollis French, reached Thursday night, was surprised to find out that Palin was disputing the legality.

“What is she trying to do, sue us?” asked French, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Alaska Dems Reject Palin’s Senate Choice Tim Grussendorf

JUNEAU, Alaska, April 2 (UPI) — Alaska Democrats have rejected Gov. Sarah Palin’s choice to fill a Democratic state Senate seat, suggesting he is a closet Republican.

Tim Grussendorf, a legislative aide, was registered as a Republican until a few weeks ago, the Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News reported Thursday. Democratic senators met Wednesday in the office of Majority Leader Johnny Ellis.

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Gov. Palin’s Supreme Pick Shows Conservative Split, But Not Breakup

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin likes to describe herself as a “maverick:” a politician who follows no party line. Her performance as the Republican vice-presidential candidate last year had some wondering if that were true – she did, after all, build herself around an ardently conservative ideology, often taking on tried and true enemies, like “activist judges.”

Now that she’s back in Alaska, where she’s Governor, Palin’s made a small break from the right-wing camp and appointed Morgan Christen as the state’s latest Supreme Court Justice. Not only is Christen the second female Justice in the state’s history, reports the LA Times, she’s also decidedly progressive and served on Planned Parenthood’s board back in the 1990s, an association that already has Palin’s allies crying foul.

Jim Minnery, who heads the pro-life Alaska Family Council, described Christen as “very conservative” and insisted she’ll be “another activist on the court,” according to Life News. For her part, Palin insists Christen’s the right woman for the job, “Alaska’s Supreme Court bears the awesome responsibility of ensuring that our court system administers justice in firm accordance with the principles laid down in our state Constitution,” read the Govenor’s official statement.

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In Alaska, Exposure Changes Palin Image for Good & Bad

Palins image has changed, for better and worse, in the six weeks since she joined the McCain ticket.

Palin's image has changed, for better and worse, in the six weeks since she joined the McCain Republican presidential ticket.

Journalist Sean Cockerham, reporting for the Anchorage Daily News, looks ahead at Governor Sarah Palin’s political future after the presidential election, both in Alaska and on a national level.  Following her polarizing, negative campaign for the vice-presidency, Gov. Palin will be faced with a much more aggressive Alaska Legislature that will no longer be intimidated by her or the tactics of her financial backers.

Over the past six weeks, Sarah Palin has morphed on the national campaign trail from bipartisan small state governor to a conservative lightning rod. Even if she doesn’t win the vice presidency, her political career will never be the same.

Palin has always attracted controversy, but she is now a far more polarizing figure, both in Alaska as well as nationally, than before her nomination. If she returns, the Republican governor will face former Democratic allies furious at her campaign attacks. She will also face lawmakers from both parties ticked off at her handling of the so-called Troopergate investigation and her recent false assertions that the investigator’s report cleared her, according to interviews with a number of lawmakers and others who watch Alaska politics.

“We’ve seen her do and say things that are shocking to us, so it’s going to be different, to put it mildly,” said Juneau Democratic Rep. Beth Kerttula, the House minority leader. “We have a whole different way of looking at her.”

But Palin would also return as a national figure who excited huge crowds across the nation and is already being described as a potential presidential candidate four years from now. She continues to enjoy high approval ratings among Alaskans, and she would come back a seasoned campaigner with new political chops.

“The main thing is, if she comes back as governor and McCain didn’t win, I do not think she’ll be blamed for it all. She won’t come back as a loser,” said Anchorage political consultant and pollster Dave Dittman. “She’d come back, I think as a winner, or as a person who if McCain had paid more attention to her or followed her lead could have been successful. I think she’d come back strong.”

The McCain-Palin campaign is down in the polls, but nearly three weeks remain until election day. In the meantime, her unexpected rise to the national stage and her new political persona has Alaskans speculating about what happens if she doesn’t win and comes back as governor.

“It’s a question on everybody’s mind,” said Mike Hawker, a Republican state representative from Anchorage.

Gregg Erickson, former publisher of a publication on state government who has watched Alaska politics for decades, predicted a rougher road for Palin than in the past.

“I think things will be very, very different for her if she comes back,” Erickson said. “She’s done some things as vice-presidential candidate that are not favorable for her role as governor, her ability to govern.”

Dittman agreed that a returning Palin would face a more aggressive Legislature than before her turn on the national stage, one that probably wouldn’t be as intimidated by her as before.

Palin has always been much more popular with the public than with legislators. Back when pollsters measured her approval rating among Alaskans in the 80 percent range, it was tough for legislators to resist her. Her Alaska approval ratings have dropped since her nomination to as low as 62 percent, at least according to some pollsters. That’s still an enviable approval rating.

The strength of the opposition, Erickson said, would depend on whether she slid any more after the election was over.

A NEW PALIN?

Palin foes and allies agree she’s likely to seek another national office if she doesn’t win the vice presidency. While she has been ridiculed by some, she has a devoted base of supporters and there’s speculation a U.S. Senate run could be in her future, or even a presidential bid the next time the Republican nomination comes open.

North Pole Republican state Rep. John Coghill said if Palin returns to Alaska as governor, there will always be the question of whether her decisions are being made for the good of the state or to position herself for national office.

“If she comes back then she’s going to have to be very clear of what her motives are in her decisions,” Coghill said.

Coghill said, overall, he’d expect a returning Palin to be more experienced and a little savvier. He said Palin would have national horsepower that she could use to advance Alaska’s interests. He said it would put Alaska in a “nice, favored position.”

But Juneau Democratic Sen. Kim Elton suggested in his newsletter this week that Palin’s broadside about Barack Obama “palling around with terrorists” and other one-liners from rallies have potential blowback for Alaska if Obama is elected and Palin has to work with the Democratic administration.

It’s clear that Palin’s relationship with Alaska Democrats is in deep freeze. That’s a turnaround from pre-nomination days, when Palin’s fiercest critics in the Legislature were Republicans and she relied on Democrats to get through her two biggest bills — a tax increase on oil companies and a license for a Canadian firm to pursue a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope to the Lower 48.

Anchorage Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski, one of the legislators who allied with her on those big issues in Juneau, said he “barely recognizes” the current Palin.

“It’s disappointing to see her bashing Democrats when her main political successes would never have passed without significant support from Democrats,” he said.

Anchorage Republican Hawker said Palin’s frostier relationship with the Democrats could have the effect of helping some Republican legislators warm up to her who weren’t Palin fans before. Hawker said Palin might also now realize that “just because you are a Republican in Alaska does not make you an evil person.”

Many Alaska Republican legislators have complained Palin has been too broad during her time as governor in suggesting that the state’s politics are corrupt.

REBUILDING TRUST

Kenai Republican Rep. Mike Chenault, considered to be a potential speaker of the state House when the Legislature convenes in January, said it remains to be seen how Palin’s new political persona plays with Republican lawmakers.

“It’s hard to say which if any Republicans would change their position on the governor based upon either her running for vice president or her handling of Troopergate,” Chenault said.

There’s resentment among some legislators of both parties for how Palin handled the Legislature’s investigation into her dismissal of her public safety commissioner and if she improperly pressured him to fire a state trooper once married to her sister.

The governor’s surrogates bashed the Alaska Democratic legislators leading the investigation, who were some of her biggest allies on oil and gas issues, saying they were Obama fans who made their bias clear. The investigation, though, was authorized by unanimous vote of the bipartisan Legislative Council, and some Republicans bristled at Palin’s refusal to cooperate in it as well as her attorney general’s failed challenge of the Legislature’s subpoenas.

Steve Branchflower, the investigator hired by the Legislative Council, released his report on Friday concluding that Palin abused her power and broke state ethics law in pressing for the trooper to be fired. But Palin’s response to the report was to say that she was vindicated and “I’m very, very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing … any hint of any kind of unethical activity there.”

The report said Palin’s removal of her commissioner, Walt Monegan, was not solely about his refusal to fire the state trooper but it was likely a contributing factor. Palin has the right to dismiss a commissioner for any reason she likes.

Legislators are far from united in their reaction to the report, with some Republicans agreeing with Palin it was a political circus. There’s no sign lawmakers are planning to take any formal action against Palin. But hard feelings abound.

“Those people who don’t believe and don’t support the governor, I think the events will perhaps exacerbate their outrage,” said Hawker, the Anchorage Republican. Likewise, he said, Palin supporters are likely to “express their moral outrage at what they feel is a persecution of the governor.”

If she comes back as governor, Hawker said, “It will be one of her immediate challenges to get through, rebuilding fences, rebuilding trust. Those issues will be there with both the Democrats and the Republicans.”

Exposure Changes Palin Image for Good & Bad

Troopergate’s NOT Over – Scope of Alaska’s Personnel Board Investigating Gov. Palin Will Include Other Ethics Complaints

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin faces additional ethics violations in Alaska Personnel Board investigation

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin faces additional ethics violations in Alaska Personnel Board "Troopergate" investigation.

According to the Anchorage Daily News, Troopergate is NOT over for Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.  Investigator Tim Petumenos recently cited a consolidation of complaints and the involvement of other officials as reasons for privacy by the Personnel Board during the investigation.  There are two other ethics complaints currently pending against Gov. Palin, involving hiring practices and illegally breached personnel files.  Additonal charges for harassment of state trooper Mike Wooten, Gov. Palin’s ex-brother-in-law will also be included in the investigation. 

The state Personnel Board investigation of Gov. Sarah Palin’s firing of Walt Monegan has broadened to include other ethics complaints against the governor and examination of actions by other state employees, according to the independent counsel handling the case.

The investigator, Tim Petumenos, did not say who else is under scrutiny. But in two recent letters describing his inquiry, he cited the consolidation of complaints and the involvement of other officials as a reason for not going along with Palin’s request to make the examination of her activities more public.

Two other ethics complaints involving Palin are known. One, by activist Andree McLeod, alleges that state hiring practices were circumvented for a Palin supporter. The case is not related to Monegan’s firing. The other, by the Public Safety Employees Association, alleges that trooper Mike Wooten’s personnel file was illegally breached by state officials.

John Cyr, the PSEA executive director, said Monday the union plans to amend its complaint to be sure the board investigates “harassment” of Wooten as well.

Petumenos has not spoken to the press, in keeping with the secrecy of the state process. But he gave a rough description of the investigation’s course in two letters to an Anchorage attorney threatening a lawsuit over Palin’s effort to waive confidentiality.

Attention is turning this week to the Personnel Board — the state’s official avenue for investigating ethics complaints — after release of the Legislature’s Troopergate investigation last Friday. The Legislature’s investigator concluded that Palin was within her rights to fire Monegan as public safety commissioner, but abused her power and broke the ethics law in joining her husband to push for the firing of Wooten, who was once married to the governor’s sister.

Palin reversed an earlier pledge and refused to cooperate with the Legislature’s investigation, calling it politically biased. In an unusual twist, she filed the ethics complaint against herself before the board, saying she hoped to “clear the air” by an inquiry through proper channels. She asked the board to decide if she broke ethics laws or acted improperly in dismissing Monegan or in dealing with Wooten — basically the same ground Branchflower covered.

Petumenos has requested a copy of Friday’s legislative report, including confidential backup material, said Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, chairman of the Legislative Council. Elton said the council will meet Thursday to vote on whether to give Petumenos all the material gathered by its investigator, Steve Branchflower.

Petumenos was hired by the Personnel Board to handle the case because the state attorney general’s office, which normally investigates ethics charges, would have a conflict investigating the governor.

Under the state’s inscrutable system for investigating official ethics complaints, there’s no way to tell how long Petumenos’ investigation might take. The Personnel Board, made up of three gubernatorial appointees, has meetings scheduled for Oct. 20 and Nov. 3. Agendas for those meetings mention confidential ethics matters to be handled in executive session.

Nor is there any certainty, if the complaints are settled or dismissed, that the results of the investigation will ever be made public. A review of recent Personnel Board cases, however, suggests it’s likely most information will eventually be released.

Palin has been involved in Personnel Board investigations before — though not as a subject of complaint — and at the time complained about their secrecy.

In high-profile cases that established her statewide reputation as an ethics reformer, Palin helped with a 2003 investigation of Republican Party chairman Randy Ruedrich, who was working on a state oil regulatory panel, and she co-filed a complaint in 2004 against then-attorney general Gregg Renkes.

Both men were found by investigators to have crossed ethical lines. Details of the investigations were released in the end, as part of a settlement that stopped short of the full public hearing before an administrative law judge that the law requires in serious cases.

In the Ruedrich case, Palin resigned her state job in protest while the investigation was still secret, saying she felt implicated in a cover-up because of the shroud.

“I’d like to find a hero in the Legislature who can take on and change that law and make it more sensible,” Palin said at the time she resigned. As governor, she has supported changes to ethics laws, but the secrecy of board investigations has not been changed.

Palin fired Monegan in July and the legislative inquiry began later that month.

Four days after her Aug. 29 selection as John McCain’s Republican vice presidential candidate, Palin’s lawyer filed an official ethics complaint over the Monegan affair with the Personnel Board, urging the Legislature to give way. The Legislature refused, creating parallel investigations.

Judging from Petumenos’ letters on the case, he feels able to range as broadly as Branchflower into subjects related to the original ethics complaints.

One element will distinguish the Personnel Board inquiry: It will have Palin’s cooperation.

Sarah and Todd Palin have agreed to be interviewed by Petumenos at the end of next week, said Meg Stapleton, a spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign. She said Monday she has no other details of the arrangement.

There’s another distinction: While the Legislature’s inquiry ended last Friday with vague talk of further action, the official investigation can bring legal consequences under the state ethics law.

The three current members of the Personnel Board were appointed by Gov. Frank Murkowski. Palin reappointed one, Debra English of Anchorage, last January.

The three unsalaried appointees usually handle less momentous matters at quarterly lunch meetings, said Dianne Kiesel, deputy director of the Alaska Division of Personnel and Labor Relations in the state Department of Administration. The board approves changes to state work rules such as promotion, pay and leave regulations.

Meanwhile, many ethics complaints filed against state employees — accusing someone of driving a state vehicle after hours, say, or of providing rude service — get handled by ethics supervisors inside the different state departments. The Personnel Board gets a summary report but is not involved.

It’s the unusual case that becomes a big job requiring extra board meetings.

“Most all of these things get resolved before or at the accusation stage,” said assistant attorney general Judy Bockmon. “Very few matters have actually gone to hearing.”

Palin explicitly waived her right to confidentiality in her complaint to the Personnel Board. But days later, the McCain-Palin campaign said the investigation would remain secret at the request of Petumenos.

“The governor will respect that request, but will explore the means by which confidentiality may be waived once the investigation is complete,” said Stapleton.

In two recent letters to Anchorage lawyer Meg Simonian, who was threatening a lawsuit to force more public scrutiny, Petumenos said the investigation had spread to other officials and other complaints.

“The Governor does not have the right, under such circumstances, to waive the right of confidentiality for others,” Petumenos wrote. But he tried to reassure Simonian about the eventual release of the investigation.

“The Board is … mindful of the public interest and the interest in the credibility to its processes that public disclosure would provide,” Petumenos said.

Simonian, a registered Democrat who said she is pursuing the matter out of personal interest, said Monday she wants Petumenos to tease out the parts of his report involving Palin, so that those parts of the upcoming Personnel Board meetings can be public — if, indeed, the board is discussing that topic.

“I’m in this bind where nobody knows what the board is doing,” Simonian said.


 On the investigation’s scope “… (I)t has become clear that the conduct of other state employees or officials besides the governor will be the subject of inquiry. The Independent Counsel, while investigating a matter referred to it, must necessarily follow all investigatory leads, and consider the conduct of any person involved in matters referred to it. Moreover, the statute requires referral to other agencies of pertinent matters and advice to the State government where practices or procedures merit review. Thus, the inquiry is not necessarily strictly limited to the Disclosure filed before it, and in any case, this matter has been consolidated with another complaint.”— Tim Petumenos, state Personnel Board independent counsel, in a Sept. 29 letter to Meg Simonian

Board’s Troopergate probe casts wider net

Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg Says 7 State Employees Will Now Testify in Gov. Palin Troopergate Investigation

As reported in this morning’s Anchorage Daily News by journalist Wesley Loy, State Attorney General Talis Colberg has announced that the seven state employees who previously refused to testify in the Governor Sarah Palin “Troopergate” ethics investigation will now cooperate with investigators. 

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s attorney general announced Sunday that seven state employees will now honor subpoenas to testify in the legislative investigation of the Troopergate affair.

Attorney General Talis Colberg said the decision comes in light of Superior Court Judge Peter Michalski’s ruling last week rejecting an attempt to kill the subpoenas.

The state Department of Law “consulted with the seven state employees and advised them of their options,” a statement from Colberg’s office said.

All seven have decided to cooperate with the investigation, the statement said.

“Despite my initial concerns about the subpoenas, we respect the court’s decision to defer to the Legislature,” Colberg said. “We are working with Senator Hollis French to arrange for the testimony of the seven state employee plaintiffs.”

The seven employees, with Colberg’s office acting as their attorney, sued the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 25, arguing that legislators on the committee lacked authority to issue the subpoenas.

Michalski disagreed, ruling the investigation “is a proper subject for the Legislature” and any allegation that the committee overstepped its bounds is “an issue for the legislative branch, not the judicial branch.”

A different, bipartisan panel of legislators known as the Legislative Council voted July 28 to hire a retired state prosecutor, Steve Branchflower, to investigate whether Palin abused her power in firing former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.

Monegan has said he believes he lost his job because he resisted pressure from Palin and others to fire a state trooper involved in a child custody battle with the governor’s sister. Palin says budget clashes with Monegan, not the trooper issue, triggered his firing.

The so-called Troopergate investigation has taken on national significance since Aug. 29, when Palin was announced as Republican John McCain’s vice presidential running mate.

The campaign claims biased Democrats are controlling the legislative investigation and hope to use the results against the McCain-Palin ticket in the final weeks of campaigning before the Nov. 4 election. Branchflower is expected to finish his report by this Friday.

In an exchange of letters with Colberg, state Sen. Kim Elton, a Juneau Democrat and Legislative Council chairman, questioned whether the attorney general believed obeying a subpoena is “voluntary.”

On Sunday, Elton said details were still being worked out on when the seven state employees will meet with Branchflower for questioning.

Enough time is left for Branchflower to conduct useful interviews with the seven witnesses, Elton said, but added: “It would have been much better to have done this two weeks ago.”

Among the seven state employees are some of Palin’s top aides, including her chief of staff, Mike Nizich, and administration commissioner Annette Kreitzer.

The Judiciary Committee also issued a subpoena to the governor’s husband, Todd Palin, who had talked with Monegan and other state workers about his family’s displeasure with the trooper.

Todd Palin has refused to honor the subpoena, but his lawyer said he plans to cooperate with a separate investigation the state Personnel Board is conducting into Monegan’s firing. That investigation, however, likely won’t conclude until after the election.

Legislators did not subpoena the governor herself.

Witness list

These seven state employees have now agreed to cooperate in the legislative investigation of the Troopergate affair.

  • Dianne Kiesel, a state human resources manager
  • Annette Kreitzer, state administration commissioner
  • Janice Mason, Gov. Sarah Palin’s scheduler and executive secretary
  • Nicki Neal, state personnel and labor relations director
  • Mike Nizich, Palin’s chief of staff
  • Kris Perry, director of the governor’s Anchorage office
  • Brad Thompson, state risk management director

 

Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg Says 7 State Employees Will Now Testify in Gov. Palin Troopergate Investigation