By Bill Boyarsky
Todd Palin seated behind a White House desk and shaping national policy could be one of the most dangerous aspects of a potential Sarah Palin presidency.
An overlooked part of the Alaska state trooper investigation is its finding on the influence of Gov. Palin’s husband, Todd—the “First Dude” or, as he is known around the Alaska statehouse, the “First Gentleman.”
This is crucial in view of the age of the Republican nominee, John McCain, 72, and the fact that he has suffered from melanoma skin cancer. His doctors have pronounced him in excellent health, but his age and the serious nature of this type of cancer should focus attention on his running mate and her operating methods.
A fascinating picture of Todd Palin’s influence in Alaska’s capital is provided in the report of a legislative investigation that concluded that Gov. Palin unlawfully abused her power in seeking the firing of a state trooper once married to her sister. The report, released Friday, also criticized Palin for allowing Todd Palin to push hard for the dismissal of Trooper Mike Wooten.
Wooten had been married to the governor’s sister. Their divorce was messy. So, apparently, was Wooten’s career as a trooper. He had been accused of illegally shooting a moose, drinking beer in a patrol car and using a Taser gun on his stepson. He was disciplined before Palin became governor and was allowed to remain a trooper.
When Palin took over, the Wooten case was high on the family agenda, with Todd Palin leading the effort to get rid of the trooper. As Associated Press writer Mike Apuzzo put it in his story on the report, Todd Palin had “extraordinary access to the governor’s office” and he “used that access to try to get [Wooten] fired.”
His target was Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan, who said he lost his job because he refused to fire Wooten.
The report, by investigator Stephen Branchflower, a retired state prosecutor, shows how Todd Palin operates.
Monegan’s secretary, Cassandra Byrne, said that on Jan. 4, 2007, she received a phone call from the governor’s office. An aide told her “the First Gentleman would like to have a meeting with Commissioner Walt Monegan. At the time, I was not familiar with the term ‘First Gentleman.’ … So I kept asking ‘Who?’ and she eventually said ‘Todd Palin.’ I said, ‘Oh, OK,’ so we set the time and the place which was the governor’s office in Anchorage. … ”
Investigator Branchflower said that when Monegan arrived there he was directed into the governor’s office. Todd Palin, wearing a business suit, was alone, waiting for him. “Mr. Palin was seated at a large conference table and invited Mr. Monegan to sit,” the report said.
Monegan said, “What I recalled was Todd sitting there. He had three stacks of paper in an array in front of him” dealing with the Wooten case. One was from the Department of Public Safety, under which Alaska state troopers serve.
Monegan told Branchflower that he got “the impression that Todd was not happy with the investigation [that the department had made before disciplining Wooten].
“He told me that he [Wooten] just got a few days off [suspension] and didn’t think that was enough. And this guy shouldn’t be a trooper.”
Describing Todd Palin, Monegan said, “I saw someone who was somewhat animated. Not certainly out of control but he was passionate about how he was addressing the issue.
“And my impression was that he was venting. I mean there was a complaint, the troopers investigated it and that they had come up with a conclusion and that he was not happy with the conclusion.”
The telling vignette shows Todd Palin’s position in the governor’s office. Dressed in a business suit, seated behind a big conference table with state documents in front of him, he tried to tell the state’s top cop how to do his job.
This is a man who was a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, a radical group advocating Alaskan secession from the United States. Gail Fenumiai, director of the Alaska Division of Elections, told TPM Muckraker that Palin registered as an AIP member in October 1995 and continued in that status until 2000, when he registered as undeclared for a few months. He registered as an AIP member again and remained with the party until 2002, when he registered as undeclared.
What other radical ideas are percolating in the mind of a man who is now portrayed in the media as sort of a lovable guys’ guy?
If Sarah Palin ever becomes president, it is safe to assume that the First Gentleman of Alaska will slip into the role of First Gentleman of the United States with as much access to the Oval Office as he has to the governor’s office in Anchorage.
That is a truly scary thought.
AP photo / Kyle Ericson
Todd Palin applauds as wife Sarah prepares to speak at a campaign rally in St. Louis on Oct. 2.