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Lawmaker accused of politicizing Palin probe


Published - Sep 06 2008 07:31PM EDT | AP


By MATT VOLZ - Associated Press Writer

A Republican lawmaker wants the Democrat overseeing an investigationinto Gov. Sarah Palin's dismissal of her public safety commissionerremoved because he seems intent on damaging her vice presidentialcandidacy.

Democratic state Sen. Hollis French "appears to besteering the direction of the investigation, its conclusion and itstiming in a manner that will have maximum partisan political impact onthe national and state elections," state Rep. John Coghill said in aletter dated Friday.

Coghill, from North Pole, is on the AlaskaLegislature's Legislative Council, the body that appointed French tooversee the investigation. The letter was sent to the council chairman,Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, whom Coghill asks to convene a meeting todiscuss whether French should be replaced.

Coghill said the council instructed French, an Anchorage Democrat, to keep politics out of the investigation.

"He just failed that, in my view," Coghill told The Associated Press Saturday.

Elton did not immediately return a message left at his office.

InJuly, the council approved $100,000 for an investigation into whetherPalin abused her power by firing Public Safety Commissioner WaltMonegan. Monegan has said he felt pressure form Palin family and staffto dismiss a trooper, Mike Wooten, who went through a messy divorcewith her sister before Palin's election as governor.

Coghillwrote in the letter that French was quoted in media reports that theresults of the probe were going to be an "October surprise" that is"likely to be damaging to the administration." The comments leadCoghill to believe the investigation is lacking in fairness, neutralityand due process, he wrote.

Coghill said he was not approached bythe McCain-Palin campaign to draft the letter, but that he called thecampaign to "apprise" them of the letter.

"I'm on my own in this one," he said.

French said he said some things he probably shouldn't have, butnoted that he is not in charge of gathering the facts and writing thereport. Prosecutor Stephen Branchflower was hired to conduct theinvestigation and the integrity of the probe remains intact, he said.

"Thereason we hired Steve Branchflower was to avoid this entire discussion.Sooner or later everybody gets accused of partisanship no matter whatyou're doing," French told the AP.

A recent decision to notsubpoena the governor in the probe was evidence that the investigationwas not politicized, French said.

On Friday, French said the Legislature will subpoena seven otherwitnesses and that the investigation on a fast track now that Palin isRepublican John McCain's running mate.

The investigationpreviously was expected to end on Oct. 31, five days before the Nov. 4election. The new target date for Branchflower to complete the reportis Oct. 10.

Wooten divorced Palin's sister and served a five daysuspension after the Palins filed a complaint against him forthreatening Palin's father. The Palins also accused Wooten of using aTaser on his stepson, drinking in his patrol car and illegally shootinga moose.

Monegan was fired by Palin in July. She has stronglydenied that Monegan's dismissal had anything to do with her formerbrother-in-law and has said she welcomes the investigation.

Coghill's efforts were initially reported by Newsweek.

Entry #134


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