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Alaska Inquiry Concludes Palin Abused Power

  • Purnell Murdock

An Alaska state legislative panel has concluded that Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin abused her power as state governor by pressuring officials to fire a state trooper who was once married to her sister. VOA's Purnell Murdock reports from Washington.

The report, released Friday by a bi-partisan panel that investigated the matter, found Governor Palin in violation of a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain.

The report says that Palin allowed her husband, Todd Palin, to use the Alaska governor's office and its resources to pressure employees into finding a way to fire state trooper Mike Wooten.

The investigation centered on the dismissal of Alaska's Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan, who said he was fired for refusing to remove Wooten.

The inquiry found that although Palin was within her rights to fire Monegan, she violated public trust by pressuring subordinates in a way that advanced her personal wishes.

A spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign, Meghan Stapleton, said the report showed Palin acted legally in her decision to dismiss Monegan. The campaign also characterized the inquiry as a partisan attack on the vice presidential candidate. Governor Palin says Monegan was fired as part of a legitimate budget dispute.

The findings come amid a heated race for the presidency between Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama and his Republican rival Senator John McCain.

Lanny Davis, a Democratic party strategist and former legal counsel to President Bill Clinton, said on CNN's "Larry King Live" show Friday the determination by the Alaska investigative board that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power is serious.

"The abuse of power finding is very serious for an elected executive," said Davis. "The Constitution and precedent suggest that abusing governmental power are grounds for impeaching a president. I suspect they would be grounds in Alaska. So the abuse of governmental power is a serious offense for an elected official."

Though the charges are serious, the nearly 300-page report does not recommend sanctions or a criminal investigation.

Commenting on CNN's "Larry King Live" show Friday, Jonah Goldberg, editor-at-large of the conservative National Review On-Line, dismissed the inquiry as politically motivated.

"It sounds to me that this was a political enterprise that came up with a compromise where they basically said, 'She broke no laws but they don't want to seem like a whitewash, because we have Obama supporters on the investigating parties.' So what we're going to do is say she did something wrong, even though she broke no law," said Goldberg.

No matter which side of the political divide they fall on, analysts agree the inquiry and its conclusions are a distraction the McCain campaign does not want as it fights a tough battle for the presidency.

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