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The just-released Trooper-Gate report finds that Sarah Palin abused her power in the affair by pressuring subordinates to fire Mike Wooten, thereby violating an Alaska law holding that "each public officer holds office as a public trust, and any effort to benefit a personal or financial interest through official action is a violation of that trust." *

It also finds that Monegan's "refusal to fire Trooper Mike Wooten" -- who was embroiled in a family dispute with the Palins -- "was not the sole reason [Monegan] by Governor Sarah Paln" but "it was likely a contributing factor". Still, the firing was a proper exercise of Palin's authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.

In addition, the report found that the office of Attorney General Talis Colberg failed to substantially comply with the legislature's written request for information about the case in the form of emails.

* This sentence has been updated from an earlier version.

The legislative council voted 12-0 to release the Trooper-Gate report, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Legislators had been in a closed door meeting all day.

We'll let you know about its findings once we have a copy.

Update: Here's the report.

After nearly forty years in the Senate, there probably aren't many people in Washington that Ted Stevens doesn't know.

Sen. Dan Inouye of Hawaii testified yesterday, and today the defense continued its parade of character witnesses, calling former Secretary of State Colin Powell to the stand, who testified to Stevens' "sterling" character.

From The Hill:

On the stand, Powell called Stevens "a master appropriator" and "a great defender of Alaska's interests." He said the senator's reputation could be summed up in one word: "sterling."

"With Sen. Stevens, I always had a guy who could tell me when I was off-base, tell me when I had no clothes on -- figuratively," he said.

In the late 1980s, Powell said he worked long hours with Stevens, sometimes until "2 or 3 in the morning," as they worked with Democrats to find ways to support freedom fighters in Latin America. Powell described Stevens as a tough but practical appropriator who forced him to have his facts straight when making a request for more money, including in the late 1980s when the government was trying to build up the Army.

The McCain campaign is stepping up its efforts to make an issue out of ACORN's voter registration activities -- and one of its new moves is to tie Barack Obama to the beleaguered community organizing group.

On a conference call with reporters this afternoon, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis raised the specter of massive voter fraud enabling an Obama victory November 4th.

"We don't want to see battleground states turn on ACORN," he said. "We want to make sure not one of these states are (sic) stolen."

Davis continued: "You don't file fake registrations if you're not going to use them to cast fake ballots."

There's little backing to support that contention. According to experts, false registrations almost never result in fraudulent votes, but rather are the result of canvassers artificially juicing their numbers in order to earn a bigger bonus. Tony Romo, for instance, is highly unlikely to try to show up to vote in Las Vegas.

So it bears repeating: despite reports in several swing states that ACORN has submitted fraudulent registration forms in the hundreds, and even perhaps the thousands, there's scant evidence that the group's lapses could significantly affect the integrity of the vote.

But for the McCain campaign, the point of touting the ACORN story is in part to tag Obama as tied to a supposedly radical, lawless community organization that works on behalf of minorities.

Davis noted that Obama had acted as a lawyer for ACORN, and had taught classes to ACORN community organizers. He also asserted that the Obama campaign had paid $800,000 to an ACORN subsidiary to canvass voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas during the primary.

Those claims are all technically true, though they deliberately exaggerate the closeness of the relationship between Obama and ACORN.

Davis also pointed reporters to a website, obamaacorntree.com, detailing the connections between the two.

As state officials scramble to rebut claims of voter purging and blocked registrations made in a recent report, they're also revealing their missteps. Officials in two swing states have admitted that they are double -- and sometimes triple -- checking new voter registrations, which could lead to eligible voters voters being turned away from polls.

In North Carolina, one of the states fingered in the New York Times investigation published yesterday, Gary Bartlett, director of the Board of Elections defended his state's handling of new voter registrations, claiming the BOE was verifying both drivers license numbers and social security numbers if new voters provide both on their application.

In Indiana, a swing state that has also had a large uptick in requests to the SSA for voter registration verifications, Matt Tusing, the deputy secretary of state and a Republican, told the Indianapolis Star that Indiana officials have been verifying the Social Security number on every card, as wells as running checks with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Correction and death records.

"Some states don't check against all those sources," he told the paper.

In both cases, that's far more verification than is required under federal law, and the superfluous checking of both numbers could lead to eligible vote registrations not being verified -- something that could disproportionately affect Democrats, who have registered in higher numbers this year.

According to the Help America Vote Act of 2002, states must exhaust checks in their own identification databases -- like drivers licenses and ID cards -- before turning to the often unreliable federal database with the Social Security Administration. Yesterday's Times report alleges that states like Colorado have been improperly relying on the SSA to verify voter registrations.

Sounds like the members of the Legislative Council in Alaska, who are meeting behind closed doors to vote on whether to release the Trooper-Gate report to the public, could be there a while.

A source who's at the state legislative building where the meeting is taking place reported moments ago that the lawmakers just ordered lunch.

And the Anchorage Daily News adds:

Two lawmakers who've stepped out of the meeting briefly say it could be hours.

Senate President Lyda Green, a Wasilla Republican, and Rep. Peggy Wilson of Wrangell said the session is moving slowly.

How slow? Wilson was asked.

"Slooowwww," she said.


During the public portion of the meeting, Wilson said that she had not yet had a chance to read the report -- which centers on the firing by Governor Sarah Palin of the state's former public safety commissioner -- and suggested that she would therefore be reluctant to release it publicly today.

So yesterday we reported on a possible push poll being conducted in Oregon by a company called Western Wats. A caller told one Oregon woman we spoke to about tax increases being supported by Democratic Senate candidate Jeff Merkley, then asked whether the information made her less likely to support Merkley -- who's in a tight race with Republican incumbent Gordon Smith.

Western Wats had told us yesterday that its client was NMB Research, who did not return our call. But today, Stacey Jenkins of Western Wats called back to say that, after speaking again with their client, Western Wats had been authorized to tell us that the client is in fact Public Opinion Strategies (POS), a well-known GOP polling firm. POS, Jenkins said, had asked Western Wats yesterday to give us the name NMB Research as the client.

Jenkins could not answer why POS had directed Western Wats to give what appears to be misleading or incomplete information to a news organization.

A representative for POS did not immediately make available to TPMmuckraker anyone who could provide more information, or clarify the relationship between POS and NMB Research, but pledged to do so.

POS is a major GOP polling firm, founded by respected veteran pollsters Bill McInturff, Glen Bolger, and Neil Newhouse. Its involvement may indicate that the call was not part of a push poll, but rather an effort to test negative messages with a sample group of voters, for research purposes -- a possibility we suggested yesterday.

We'll keep you posted as we learn more.

Late Update: Public Opinion Strategies sent the following statement to TPMmuckraker this afternoon:

NMB Research is a separate legal entity with a separate office set up by the members of Public Opinion Strategies. It was established to comply with coordination rules of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. NMB is retained by a number of clients involved in public policy research, issue advocacy, and independent expenditure campaigns. The establishment of NMB ensures compliance with the coordination rules of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act.

Neither Public Opinion Strategies nor NMB Research engages in push polling, voter ID, or GOTV programs.


We've contacted Neil Newhouse, a founder and senior pollster with the firm, to ask specifically about the Oregon call we reported on yesterday, and as always, will keep you posted.

Later Update: Neil Newhouse emails to say: "The poll was done by NMB and included more than 20 questions, including some message testing regarding Jeff Merkley."

He adds: "It was not a push poll, but a standard message-testing survey."

In other words, the call was designed to test which negative message about Merkley voting for tax increases would be most effective with Oregon voters.

The Alaska Legislative Council has been begun its meeting. It will soon go into a private executive session to hear a briefing from Steve Branchflower on his findings in the Trooper-Gate investigation, and to vote on whether to release his full report to the public.

At TPMmuckraker, we've been listening on streaming audio to the public portion of the session. And already it looks like it could be a struggle to get a yes vote on releasing the report.

A Republican member of the council, Rep. Peggy Wilson, said that the report -- which runs to 1000 pages, including evidence -- was so long that she hadn't yet had time to read it, and therefore didn't feel comfortable moving forward.

So it doesn't sound like Rep. Wilson will vote for releasing the report today. Whether her GOP colleagues feel similarly will determine what we find out today.

We'll keep you posted...

No one dresses Norm Coleman, except Norm Coleman . . . and maybe, sometimes, Mrs. Coleman.

At least that's what the senator, who finally faced the media at a press conference today, says amid reports that he received pricey suits as gifts from political contributor and local businessman, Nasser Kazeminy.

"While I have answered honestly the question about suits and jobs - I will say as clearly as I can. Nobody except my wife or me bought my suits," Coleman said this morning according to text of the statement released by his campaign.

"If my friends have shared gifts with me and my family - or I have shared gifts with them - if they rose to the level of having to be reported - they were reported."

Well thanks, for the non-specific denial Norm, but we weren't asking if they were reported, we were asking if Kazeminy did in fact buy you suits from Nieman Marcus.

Coleman and his staff's bizarre refusal to directly answer questions about whether Kazeminy bought him suits has been documented on tape and turned what seemed like a relatively small impropriety into what local bloggers have affectionately dubbed, "Suit Gate."

So today's the day for Steve Branchflower to release his report into Trooper-Gate to the Alaska legislative council.

But it's worth pointing out that, thanks to GOP resistance, Branchflower's findings may not be made public today.

The legislative council will meet in private at 1pm EST to receive a briefing from Branchflower on his findings. The council will then vote on whether to make the 253-page report public. The legislators, who have already picked up copies of the report, have signed confidentiality agreements promising not to show anyone, including their staff, unless authorized to do so by a vote of the council.

It's by no means clear which way that vote will go. The council comprises 10 Republicans and 4 Democrats. It had voted unanimously in July to launch the investigation, but since Governor Palin was named as John McCain's running mate, many Republican members of the legislature have fallen into line behind the McCain camp's effort to quash the probe. Last month, Rep. John Coghill, a Republican from North Pole who is on the council, charged that the investigation had been inappropriately politicized and called for the removal of Sen. Hollis French, the Anchorage Democrat running the probe. And shortly after, six GOP legislators filed suit to halt the investigation entirely. (The suit was dismissed yesterday by the state Supreme Court.)

The Anchorage Daily News also reports:

Branchflower also produced a separate volume, roughly twice as large as his report, that's expected to remain confidential because it contains exhibits with personnel information that cannot legally be released, according to legislative council staff.


Palin's lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, tried to preemptively discredit the report, telling the ADN that it won't be comprehensive because Branchflower didn't interview Palin or her chief of staff, Mike Tibbles. "They didn't even try to interview the governor. You want to know why she reassigned Monegan, it would be nice to talk to her. They didn't even try," Van Flein said. "It's a report that's going to be half-done at best. And anything that's half-done will likely be half-baked."

In response, Hollis French told the paper that he wrote a letter to Van Flein last month asking to set up the interview. In addition, the New York Times has new details on the pressure that was brought by Palin's office on Walt Monegan in regard to Mike Wooten, the trooper who was embroiled in a bitter family dispute with the Palins.

It reports:
In all, the commissioner and his aides were contacted about Trooper Wooten three dozen times over 19 months by the governor, her husband and seven administration officials, interviews and documents show.


In one of those instances, Monegan received a call from an aide to Palin, who was concerned that Wooten was assigned to work at a state fair the governor planned to attend. Wooten, says the paper, "had indeed volunteered for duty at the fairgrounds -- in full costume as "Safety Bear," the troopers' child-friendly mascot."

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