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September 16, 2008 10:09 PM

ELECTION 2008: Alaska Legislators File Suit to Stop Palin Investigation

Posted by Rachel Breitman

The bipartisan ethics investigation of Alaska governor Sarah Palin should be put on hold until after the upcoming presidential election, according to a suit filed Tuesday by five Republican state lawmakers from Alaska.

State senators Fred Dyson and Tom Wagoner, and representatives Wes Keller, Bob Lynn, and Mike Kelly say that the legislative council's investigation into the Republican vice presidential nominee and her July 11 firing of public safety commissioner Walter Monegan has been politically motivated, and should either be transferred to a state personnel board or postponed until after November 4.

"The defendants are conducting a 'McCarthyistic' investigation in an unlawful, biased, partial, and partisan political manner in order to impact the upcoming Alaska general and national presidential elections," the suit says.

Anchorage attorney Kevin Clarkson, a partner at Brena, Bell & Clarkson, is lead counsel for the plaintiffs on the suit. The case targets Democratic senators Hollis French, who is overseeing the investigation, and Kim Elton, who heads the legislative council, along with Stephen Branchflower, the lawyer hired to lead the investigation. 

Clarkson is working on the case pro bono, with assistance from cocounsel Kelly Shackleford and Hiram Sasser, of Liberty Legal Institute, a Texas nonprofit that focuses on first amendment religious issues.

French, who has squabbled with Palin and publicly supports Obama, says the legislative council is conducting the investigation without any partisan motivation or hopes of impacting the November election. The council has twice as many Republicans as Democrats.

"Until Governor Palin was placed on the national Republican ticket, no one had any inkling that this investigation would be a matter of national interest," writes French, in an email to The Am Law Daily. "The unanimous, bipartisan decision by the Legislative Council Committee to hire an independent, unbiased, and objective investigator was all the more prudent in light of that unforeseen development."

But Clarkson says that Branchflower, Elton, and French have personal conflicts of interest that limit their ability to fairly evaluate claims that Palin abused her executive power by firing Monegan for his refusal to remove Palin's brother-in-law from his state trooper position.

Both Democratic senators have vocally supported Obama's energy policies, and Elton has donated $2,000 to the Obama campaign. The suit says additional conflicts arise with Branchflower's wife, who had worked in the Anchorage Police Department under Monegan and was  a member of the Public Safety Employee's Association, the union representing Wooten.

"The investigation first and foremost in unconstitutional because it goes beyond the legislators' power," Clarkson tells The Am Law Daily. "If a crime has been committed, it should be investigated by Alaska's law enforcement, not its legislature."

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This woman is 1 step away from being a felon, now she is trying to get Trooper gate thrown out. I wonder If I rob a bank I could get that thrown out. I am not sure what happens in AL when you break the law, but when you break the law here you go to jail. Getting it thrown out is only an admission to your guilt. I still cannot believe someone under investigation was selected for VP. This is a joke. Not to mention your ZERO skills for the position.

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