Alaska GOP Tries To Stall Trooper Probe
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Michele Norris. Republican lawmakers in Alaska are closing ranks to stop an investigation of Governor Sarah Palin. The probe was looking into whether Palin misused the power of her office to get her ex-brother-in-law fired from his job as a state trooper. It's been dubbed Troopergate. The investigation had Republican support when it started back in July, but that was before Palin was picked as John McCain's running mate. NPR's Martin Kaste has been following this story and joins me now. Martin, for those who have not followed this closely, give us just a quick background on what this is all about.
MARTIN KASTE: Well, it all started as a family dispute. A few years ago, before Palin was governor, her sister was in a messy divorce. Her now ex-husband is a state trooper, and there's some perception in Alaska that once Palin became governor, that she tried to get him fired from his job, in part because he doesn't have exactly an exemplary record. He's got a few demerits for some of his behavior, especially towards her family. There's a suspicion here that once she became governor, she somehow tried to get him pushed out of the job.
NORRIS: Now, the question is whether she misused the power of her office. Where's the evidence of that?
KASTE: It's very roundabout evidence. There's no evidence of her asking for him to be fired, but there are records of her staff contacting the state troopers and the public safety commissioner about this trooper. And when the public safety commissioner was suddenly fired in July, he said he thought he was fired in part because he hadn't fired this trooper. Now, he also says that he was never asked directly to fire him. He thought it was sort of a implied request, and the governor herself now says, in retrospect, she can see how that perception might have been there, but that she says that was not the intent. The legislature in July set up an investigation just to clarify the whole matter, and she, in July, said she would cooperate with the legislature's investigation.
NORRIS: Now, you're talking about a series of events that took place in July. One month later, on August 29th, John McCain surprises the world and picks Palin as his running mate. How has that now affected things?
KASTE: Oh, it's just changed everything. It's as though your little pickup softball game suddenly had some bearing, some direct effect on the outcome of the World Series. Right now, what's happening is the McCain campaign has people in Alaska, some legal minds who are coordinating with Palin's lawyer, and they are together now saying that this whole matter should go to the personnel board, which is sort of an ethics board inside the Alaska government, and is not something the state legislature has any business investigating. At the same time, the attorney general, the state attorney general, who's a Palin appointee, says that Palin staff will not cooperate with the legislature's investigation. So that sets up a whole confrontation of potential state constitutional crisis, I suppose, between the executive branch and the legislative branch about whether these subpoena are obeyed or not.
NORRIS: And those Republicans and others around the country are saying that this whole investigation is politically motivated.
KASTE: Well, the legislature in Alaska is Republican dominated, but you have to remember that a lot of the Republicans in the legislature used to be opposed to Sarah Palin on a lot of issues. They didn't really like her, and that's, of course, now changed drastically since she became a candidate for vice president, and a lot of the same Republicans who used to oppose her are not trying to protect her from this investigation. So I think we're going to find increasing pressure from within the legislature itself to either end this investigation or to delay it until after the election in November.
NORRIS: That's NPR's Martin Kaste talking about the latest developments in the Troopergate investigation in Alaska. Thanks so much, Martin.
KASTE: You're welcome.
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