Lawmakers: Politics 'hijacked' Alaska

Top legislators say McCain campaign effort an attempt to stifle state Troopergate investigation

Posted: Sunday, September 21, 2008

The presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin has taken effective charge of the Alaska state government's response to the legislative investigation into abuse of power allegations against Palin.

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David Zalubowski / The Associated Press
David Zalubowski / The Associated Press

An investigation that began on a bipartisan basis with several pledges from Palin to participate, is now being manipulated to protect Palin by campaign attorneys who appear to be directing the Palin administration's response, top legislators say.

"The state of Alaska and the Alaska Attorney General's Office don't need any help from a national campaign," said Sen. President Lyda Green, R-Wasilla.

Green said the Palin administration's response seems more geared to help the McCain campaign by shutting down the investigation that's become known as "Troopergate" than informing the Alaska public.

"National politics have absolutely hijacked the state government, it's really disturbing to see from the governor," said Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau.

In the sometimes confusing world of Alaska politics, Kerttula, the House Democratic leader, was frequently an ally of Palin on the big issues since she has been governor, including oil tax reform and natural gas pipeline negotiations.

Green, the top Republican in the Senate, has had sharp differences with Palin despite being a both a fellow Republican and resident of the small town of Wasilla.

Palin had initially agreed to have her staff cooperate with the investigation. After the Senate Judiciary Committee was charged by the Legislative Council with managing the investigation, she even seemed to welcome it.

Later, after being nominated as McCain's running mate, Palin switched gears and demanded that an executive branch agency, the state Personnel Board, handle the investigation exclusively.

Palin administration representatives have said the Legislature has no authority to investigate actions in the executive branch.

Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, disagreed.

"Clearly the Legislature has the inherent authority to investigate acts by the executive branch," he said at a committee meeting.

Alaska Attorney General Talis Colberg has said that state employees he represents and who work for Palin risk displeasing her if they comply with legislative subpoenas. That's despite having taken an oath to uphold the Alaska Constitution.

"Our clients are also loyal employees subject to the supervision of the governor," Colberg wrote in a Sept. 16 letter to the committee. "Your subpoena places them in the difficult position of choosing either to support the Governor's decision to cooperate only with the Personnel Board investigation or to voluntarily comply with the subpoenas issued by the committee."

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, a member of the Judiciary Committee, was among legislators surprised Colberg would suggest legislative subpoenas are "voluntary" and said Colberg was challenging the integrity of the Legislature.

"No one has the right to just flout that, to disregard our attempts to exercise the rights that we have," he said.

Green, too, said she was dismayed at the Palin administration's decision to ignore the committee's subpoenas.

"There are many ways to address a subpoena you don't want to comply with," she said. "You don't ignore the subpoena, you go to court and ask for relief."

Though members of Palin's administration and the McCain-Palin campaign team have challenged the validity of the subpoenas in press releases, they have made no attempt to quash them in court.

It is not clear whether Palin ordered state employees to not comply with subpoenas, and Colberg and other top Department of Law officials were unavailable Friday.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgeyat 523-2250 or e-mail

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