October 1st, 2008
05:30 PM ET
14 years ago

Fact Check: Is the Palin trooper probe run by Obama backers?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/01/art.ap.palin.mccain.101.jpg caption="Is the Palin trooper probe run by Obama backers?."]
The Statement
A new Web ad, "Big Top," pushes back against an Alaska Legislature investigation of Gov. Sarah Palin's firing of her public safety commissioner by accusing the leaders of "Secrecy, collusion, and October surprises. It's nothing more than a three-ring circus emceed by Obama partisans." The ad is posted at http://www.palintruthfiles.com, which was set up by the McCain campaign.

Get the facts!

The Facts
Alaska Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan was fired in July. Since his dismissal, he says he was pressured to fire Palin's ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper she accused of threatening her family during an acrimonious divorce from her sister. Palin denies any wrongdoing and says Monegan was fired for opposing her on budget issues. The ad argues that the Monegan probe began with "blogger conspiracy theories."

But the investigation picked up steam three weeks before Palin was named the Republican vice presidential nominee, when she disclosed that members of her administration had contacted Monegan's department nearly two dozen times about her ex-brother-in-law, State Trooper Mike Wooten. Palin said the aides acted without her knowledge or approval and pledged to cooperate with the investigation. The lawmaker managing the investigation, state Sen. Hollis French, did tell ABC News on September 2 that the probe could yield an "October Surprise" for the GOP ticket. But Palin had already begun to attack the legitimacy of the investigation, filing a September 1 request to the state Personnel Board - an executive branch agency whose members were appointed by her predecessor - to conduct its own probe.

Both French and Legislative Council Chairman Kim Elton are Democrats who support Sen. Barack Obama, their party's presidential standard-bearer. And Elton has so far refused to convene a new meeting of the GOP-dominated Legislative Council, which commissioned the probe unanimously in July, despite calls from some of the committee's Republicans to reconsider. The McCain campaign ad accuses French and Stephen Branchflower, the former Anchorage prosecutor hired to conduct the probe, of "collusion" in deciding who would be subpoenaed. French told a September 12 hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he leads, that he agreed not to subpoena Palin's former chief of staff even though Branchflower wanted to question him.

But French said there was no "political will" to subpoena the former aide, Mike Tibbles - and Rep. Jay Ramras, the Republican head of the House Judiciary Committee, said he was the one who asked that Tibbles be dropped from the subpoena list. In addition, Sen. Charlie Huggins - a Republican from Palin's hometown of Wasilla - was the deciding vote when the committee voted to subpoena Palin's husband Todd and a dozen others.

The Verdict: Misleading. The investigation is being led by Democrats who support Obama, but a Republican has said he was responsible for one of the main complaints cited in the ad - and several GOP lawmakers remain supportive of the probe.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • Fact Check • Sarah Palin
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