ANCHORAGE, Alaska The McCain-Palin campaign is "moving on many fronts" to stall an investigation into whether Gov. Sarah Palin abused the power of her office by firing her public safety commissioner, Alaska lawmakers said in a court filing Thursday.
The filing is in response to a lawsuit by five Republican state legislators seeking to halt the Legislative Council's investigation into whether Palin abused her power when she fired Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan this summer. The lawmakers call the investigation biased, a violation of due process and a violation of the separation of powers between Alaska's legislative and executive branches.
They want a judge to order the Legislative Council to stop investigating Palin or remove its leaders: Sen. Hollis French, the Democratic project manager; Democratic Sen. Kim Elton, the council's investigator; and Stephen Branchflower, the retired attorney the council hired as an independent investigator.
Palin had agreed to cooperate with the inquiry until she became Sen. John McCain's running mate. Then, through the McCain campaign, she said that French, Elton and Branchflower were manipulating the report to be a potentially damaging "October surprise" before Election Day.
Peter Maasen, the attorney defending French, Elton, Branchflower and the Legislative Council, said in the response filed Wednesday that the suit is one of several tactics the McCain campaign is using to stall the investigation.
"The McCain campaign and its supporters, having apparently convinced themselves that the facts would cause serious damage to the Republican ticket if publicly known before the national election, are now moving on many fronts including this one to slow and stop Mr. Branchflower's fact-finding inquiry and to prevent his issuance of the report authorized by the Legislative Council," Maassen wrote in the response.
McCain campaign spokesman Taylor Griffin said in an e-mailed statement Thursday that the lawsuit was initiated independently of the campaign, though McCain officials were notified before it was filed.
"The legislators who initialed the suit share our concern and that of several members of the Legislative Council that the inquiry is not being carried out in the unbiased manner at arms-length from politics that was initially promised," Griffin said.
Maassen says the Legislature has broad fact-finding power and this probe falls well within its scope, and asks Anchorage Judge Stephanie Joannides to dismiss the lawsuit.
The filing did not specify other stalling tactics the campaign was using, though McCain officials have held regular news conferences denouncing the investigation. Also, several witnesses under subpoena, including Palin's husband, have refused to cooperate. That means Branchflower will not be able to talk to key people, though he still plans to complete a report by Oct. 10.
Palin fired Monegan in July. Weeks later, it emerged that Palin, her husband, Todd, and several high-level staffers had contacted Monegan about state trooper Mike Wooten, who had gone through a nasty divorce from Palin's sister before Palin became governor. While Monegan says no one from the administration ever told him directly to fire Wooten, he says their repeated contacts made it clear they wanted Wooten gone.
Palin maintains she fired Monegan over budget disagreements.