Palin blames 'public lies' for Ross rejection

Lawmaker says rumor never came up in floor debate

Posted: Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Gov. Sarah Palin is blaming bloggers and lies for the defeat of her attorney general nominee, who the Alaska Legislature refused to confirm last week.

At her first news conference after the Legislature voted 35-23 to reject Wayne Anthony Ross as attorney general, Palin said the defeat was due to "deliberate misrepresentation" of Ross' statements.

"A great problem was public lies were told about Mr. Ross," she said.

Palin declined to say whose lies undermined Ross, citing the blogosphere and e-mails from members of the public.

Ross, long a controversial and flamboyant figure in Alaska public life, came to the job with a history that included statements critized by Alaska Native organizations and women's groups.

Palin, though, said lies about Ross that were tough to refute in a timely manner led to the rejection.

"He very easily and accurately refuted the lies told about him, but once a bell is rung, really tough to un-ring a bell," she said.

Ross, who Palin said was a champion of gun rights, appeared likely to win confirmation. Then, just a few days before his confirmation vote, Ross became involved in the battle over the appointment to Juneau's Senate seat.

Ross backed Palin's decision to appoint three people to the Senate seat, and then told legislators not to get "bogged down on technicalities" because the law said a single person should be appointed. The Legislature should simply confirm Palin's favored candidate regardless of the law, he said.

He later denied making those statements, an action some legislators said raised concerns about Ross' veracity and his ability to be an independent voice inside the Palin administration.

Ross had told the Alaska Public Radio Network that "the most important thing that can be done by the Senate is not argue what's legal or illegal but to appoint somebody to represent Juneau."

Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, eventually voted to confirm Ross, but said those last days before the vote led her to reconsider her promise to Palin to back Ross.

Palin said she wouldn't discuss the incident. She said the real problem was the public's lies about Ross.

The one example she cited was "he being engaged in a machine gun shoot on somebody's property down in Seward, and there were witnesses to such a thing, and he'd never been there," she said. "That's just one example."

Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, is a former assistant attorney general who led the fight against Ross on the floor of the Legislature. He questioned whether anyone had heard the Seward machine gun allegation at the time.

"I don't believe I knew anything about that, and it certainly never came up in floor debate," French said.

A Google search of news and blogs turned up no relevant mentions of Wayne Anthony Ross, Seward and machine guns prior to the vote.

Palin said the rejection of Ross was a setback for the state's top law enforcement officer following the resignation of former Attorney General Talis Colberg.

"We don't need to rehash what he went through; you all know what he went through," she said.

Colberg, on behalf of Palin, resisted legislative subpoenas for several state employees involved in the Troopergate inquiry last fall. They, along with Todd Palin, were found in contempt by the Alaska Senate in February, and Colberg resigned four days later.

Palin said that Richard Svobodny, deputy attorney general for the Criminal Division, will serve as acting attorney general until a new appointment is made.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgeyat 523-2250.

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