ANCHORAGE - Republican presidential nominee John McCain should apologize for his campaign's personal attacks on the Alaskan at the heart of the Troopergate controversy, according two former Alaska legislative leaders.
Former House Speaker Gail Phillips, a Republican, and former Senate President Chancy Croft, a Democrat, on Friday said McCain's campaign representatives made attacks that damaged the reputation of Walt Monegan, Gov. Sarah Palin's fired public safety commissioner.
Palin, McCain's vice presidential running mate, dismissed Monegan in July. At the time, she said she wanted the department to move in a different direction.
Monegan weeks later said his dismissal was tied to his refusal to fire Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten, who was involved in a bitter divorce and custody battle with Palin's sister. Before Monegan was hired, Wooten had been disciplined for drinking beer in his patrol car, demonstrating a Taser on his 10-year-old stepson and illegally shooting a moose.
An investigator hired by a bipartisan legislative panel concluded that Palin unlawfully abused her power as governor by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired.
Phillips and Croft said that in the run-up to the investigator's report, the McCain campaign disparaged Monegan and tried to kill the investigation.
"It's unconscionable that an outside campaign organization which had no knowledge of the history, background or understanding of an Alaskan issue would come to our State to destroy the reputation and life of a dedicated Alaskan public servant," Phillips and Croft said in a joint statement.
A spokesman for the McCain campaign in Alaska had not seen the letter and could not immediately comment.
Phillips left office in 2000 and Croft in 1978. Phillips is on the campaign steering committee of U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.
She said Friday the apology request had no connection to Stevens, whom McCain has called upon to resign following Stevens' conviction Monday of failing to report more than $250,000 in gifts. Croft's son is a former state representative and a candidate for mayor of Anchorage.
The McCain campaign brought in operatives who stuck their noses into Alaska business that had nothing to do with the campaign, she said.
"In the meantime, they hurt an Alaska citizen very much," she said.
Monegan's dismissal sparked two investigations, one by the legislative panel and one by the Alaska Personnel Board, when Palin filed a complaint against herself. That investigation is pending. Monegan this month filed a request for a hearing with the Personnel Board to address damage to his reputation.
The Legislature's investigator, former Anchorage prosecuting attorney Stephen Branchflower, concluded that Palin violated a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain.
Branchflower's report said the firing was lawful but that Palin let the family grudge influence her decision-making.
Phillips and Croft took issue with "near-daily" verbal attacks by McCain campaign representatives that ripped Monegan, a former U.S. Marine and Anchorage police chief.
In press conferences in which they billed themselves as the "Palin Truth Squad," campaign operatives called Monegan insubordinate and a "rogue" who repeatedly tried to work outside normal channels for requesting money.
Phillips and Croft said that before Palin was named to the national ticket, she had agreed to the legislative investigation.
"She publicly said it was justified and that she and her staff would cooperate with the investigation," they said in their letter to McCain.
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