Palin Disputed In Troopergate Probe

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin answers questions after signing three budget bills into law in Anchorage, Alaska, Friday, June 29, 2007. Palin on Friday cut more than a quarter billion dollars from the $1.8 billion capital budget the Legislature sent to her. (AP Photo/Al Grillo) AP Photo/Al Grillo

Just when it seemed the Alaska investigation into Gov. Sarah Palin's firing of a state official might have been scuttled by the pressures of presidential politics, another turn of events has kept it going.

Palin's firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan last July, allegedly after pressure by her, her husband and staff members on Monegan to fire her ex-brother-in-law was ignored, is at the center of the investigation (known as Troopergate) into whether Palin abused her power.

Palin originally agreed to participate in the investigation, authorized in July by the Republican-controlled legislature. She told Alaskans, "Hold me accountable." Once named to the McCain ticket, however, Palin backpedaled. She has since refused to testify.

Palin has maintained that she fired Monegan not over the status of Trooper Mike Wooten, but over budget disagreements - specifically a trip Monegan planned to Washington which she said was unauthorized.

Earlier this week the McCain campaign released a series of e-mails detailing the frustration several Palin administration officials experienced in dealing with Monegan. The "last straw," the campaign said, was a trip Monegan planned in July to seek federal money for investigating and prosecuting sexual assault cases.

Palin, saying she did not authorize the expenses for the travel, cited that trip as a primary example of the insubordination that led to Monegan's firing.

However, Palin's chief of staff did authorize the travel to Washington.

A travel authorization document signed by Palin's Chief of Staff Mike Nizich on June 18 approved Monegan's trip to Washington for the purpose of meeting Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

The document's existence was first reported by ABC News on Friday.

Monegan told ABC that the travel authorization was explicitly to pursue funding for the anti-sexual-violence program, though the document does not state that as a reason for the trip.

McCain spokesman Taylor Griffin said Friday that the travel authorization was for a routine trip, and that state commissioners regularly travel to meet members of Alaska's congressional delegation.

"He was not authorized to lobby Congress," Griffin said.

The revelation came on the same day that several individuals subpoenaed to testify in Troopergate refused to appear as ordered.

Those who refused to answer their subpoenas (including Todd Palin, the Governor's husband; Randy Ruaro, the governor's deputy chief of staff; and aide Ivy Frye) will be referred to the full Senate for contempt, said Sen. Hollis French, who is heading the investigation.
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