Troopergate Friday omnibus post

Item: Yesterday an Alaska court ruled against six legislators who had sued to have the Branchflower investigation stopped. I haven't written much about the case because it was pretty obvious from reading the filing (pdf!) that the case was entirely without merit. The upside of responding to a frivolous lawsuit, though, is that it gives the defense an opportunity to focus on the jokes:
As a final factual matter, though probably pointless in what has become a sharply political rather than legal back-and-forth, Defendants take issue with Plaintiff’s central point that the court must immediately enjoin the legislative investigation because”[a]s the nation watches, Senator French, Senator Elton and Mr. Branchflower [are making] the Alaska Legislature and the State of Alaska a laughingstock.” TRO Memo at 5. In this politically charged atmosphere, perceptions differ. Consider: Alaska’s Governor pledges her full cooperation with the investigation, then reverses course when selected for national office. The Governor files an ethics complaint against herself, then moves to dismiss it as meritless. The announcement that a witness will disobey an Alaska legislative subpoena comes from a spokesman of the McCain Campaign. Six Alaska legislators file suit, asking the court to rule that the Legislature – their own coequal branch – has no authority to investigate abuses of power by the Executive. The Attorney General, the highest law enforcement officer in the State, advises witnesses that whether to comply with subpoenas is a matter of personal choice.

Plaintiffs may truly believe that Alaska has become a “laughingstock,” but they should look at someone other than Defendants here for the source of the humor. |Source (pdf!)|

Item: Speaking of the Attorney General's advice, it had hinged crucially on the fact that this case was going forward. Colberg had argued, that is, that subpoenaed individuals might have real doubts as to whether they might, as executive branch employees, cooperate with a legislative investigation. My guess, and probably everybody's, is that he'll appeal this ruling and stick to his argument. It's a weaker argument today, but stinky fish is stinky fish.

Item: On the other hand:
Thomas Van Flein, the Anchorage attorney representing both Todd and Sarah Palin, watched the court hearing today. He said in an interview afterward that, if the judge refused to throw out the subpoenas, he would expect Todd Palin to testify after all.

"Short of appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court, which no one has talked about, I don't see why we wouldn't just have Todd testify," he said. |ADN|

Item: I really try to give Ross Douthat the benefit of the doubt -- because I really want there to be an honest conservative out there to engage intellectually -- but calling the scandal 'tasergate' is just stupid. I'm not saying 'troopergate' is a great name, and I'd rather we had a better one, but focusing on the tasering incident shows that Ross is either ignorant of the facts or in the tank.

Item: Speaking of Wooten, Jason Leopold's article yesterday fleshes out a little more detail about what happened with his personnel file. When Harbor Adjustment Services was told to reverse itself and deny Wooten's benefits, Johanna Grasso, the adjustor dealing with the case, initially refused, saying that she would not do so in the absence of a medical justification. Subsequently, the claim was denied -- in a letter signed by Grasso. We knew that part of what happened was that the Governor's office had provided Harbor Adjustment Services with pictures taken by Todd Palin of Wooten riding a snowmachine. Leopold adds to this story by reporting that, "according to documents in Wooten’s case, another apparent factor in denying his disability claim was a preexisting condition from the trooper’s days in the U.S. Air Force." This sheds light on the famous Frank Bailey call, where Bailey talked about the fact that Wooten had failed to disclose something in his employment application. Maybe this is what Bailey was talking about. Notably, when Wooten sued he won back his workers compensation benefits.

Item: By the way, I've never gotten around to writing a long post about how Troopergate is a labor issue, but if you haven't listened to the Bailey call (audio here) then you really should. The first few minutes are Bailey trying to get Lt. Dial to forward to him emails that the PSEA -- the union representing troopers -- sends to its members regarding ongoing contract negotiations. Not the worst thing in the world, and everybody does it, but slimy. Moreover, one of the things that becomes clear as the call goes on is that the Palin the campaign against Wooten had by then escalated to the point where it became the Governor's primary interest in contract negotiations with the union.

Item: Returning to Leopold's article, most of the interest has to do with the question of what Wilkes said when she spoke to Branchflower. Here's the key passage:
Wilkes’s sister, Carol Lindsey, in a series of email exchanges, vehemently denied that her sister changed her story during her testimony. Lindsey said the suggestion that Wilkes recanted her previous statement was an “outright lie.”

“I can only say that [Murlene] will tell anyone and everyone who asks her that she gave a statement and she has never changed that statement,” Lindsey said. “Beyond that I have no information. The story that she has changed her statement is a lie. You could ask her.”

A message left for Wilkes at Harbor Adjustment late Wednesday was not returned. Her attorney, Robert Erwin, a former Alaska Supreme Court justice, was out of the office Wednesday afternoon and did not return a message left for him.

Erwin’s daughter, attorney Roberta Erwin, represented Palin’s sister, Molly McCann, in divorce proceedings from Wooten.

Lindsey did not say whether Wilkes told her the substance of her testimony.

“I do not know the particulars of the case as this is a confidential matter,” Lindsey said in an email. |The Public Record|

Item: Mudflats has an update on the campaign to ensure that Branchflower's report is make public.

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