Abuse of power: Investigation of Palins raises troubling questions

Published October 13, 2008 6:05 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

An investigator's conclusion that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin abused the power of her office to pursue a vendetta against her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, is troubling enough. But abuse of executive power is double trouble in a candidate who aspires to an office that could put her one life away from the most powerful executive office in the nation.

For the past eight years, Americans have witnessed the dangerous consequences of an overreaching vice president who has sought at every turn to enhance executive power at the expense of constitutional, legal and ethical safeguards. We do not need more of the same.

The basic details of the Palin affair are these. The trooper, Michael Wooten, went through a messy divorce with Palin's sister. After he was not removed from the force in response to allegations from the governor's family, the governor and her husband, Todd Palin, pressured Walt Monegan, the commissioner of public safety, to fire him. When Monegan refused, according to his side of the story, the governor fired him.

An arm of the Alaska Legislature commissioned a former criminal prosecutor, Stephen Branchflower, to investigate. He has concluded that the governor breached the state's ethics law which prohibits public officials from any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through an official action that violates the public trust.

He further concluded that though the governor's firing of Monegan was a proper and lawful exercise of her authority, Monegan's refusal to fire trooper Wooten probably contributed to his termination, though it was not the only reason.

The prominent role of the governor's husband, Todd, in this affair is a side issue, but not an unimportant one. He apparently had ready access to both the governor's office and her staff, and when he spoke to state employees, it was understood that he was speaking for the governor.

The parallel that comes to mind is Hillary Clinton's role in her husband's White House, when she was accused of demanding the firing of the White House travel staff in order to install Clinton loyalists in those jobs. In this, and in her much more public job heading the president's health-care reform commission, critics questioned whether an unelected spouse of the elected chief executive should wield such power.

But in Mrs. Clinton's case, she was not pursuing a personal vendetta.

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
comments powered by Disqus