The no-holds-barred effort by the McCain campaign and its Alaska Republican allies to bury the Trooper-Gate investigation at all costs may be bearing fruit.
Republicans have in recent days been calling on Democratic senator Kim Elton to reconvene the bipartisan legislative council with ultimate responsibility for the probe. And yesterday Elton told the Associated Press that he may do so, allowing for a vote on whether to delay the investigation or replace Democratic senator Hollis French as its manager.
The council, which contains 10 Republicans and four Democrats, had voted unanimously in July to launch the investigation. But many observers believe that, now that the probe could play a role in the presidential race, the committee’s GOP members will vote to shut it down if given a chance.
Other recent developments confirm that the GOP is pulling out all the stops.
- Talis Colberg — the Palin-appointed Attorney General who was directly involved in efforts to pressure the former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan over Trooper Mike Wooten — said Tuesday that ten state employees would not honor subpoenas to testify in the case. Palin, of course, had originally pledged her office’s full cooperation in the probe.
- A group of five GOP legislators filed suit — with the help of a right-wing Texas-based legal foundation — to stop the investigation in its tracks.
- The McCain campaign officially took charge of the effort, trotting out a hard-charging former federal prosecutor, Ed O’Callaghan, as its point-man on the issue.
- And the ADN reported today that Palin’s lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, is no longer being paid for by the state of Alaska, but could not say whether the McCain camp was helping to pay his bills.
But the GOP’s hardball tactics could end up doing more harm than good, by adding to the suspicion that Palin has something to hide.
In an editorial published this morning, the ADN accused Palin and McCain of “trying to ignite a partisan firestorm that wipes out the Troopergate investigation until after the election.”
And the liberal journalist David Corn observed last night on MSNBC: “In the last few days the Republicans are treating this like its another Watergate and they better shut it down right way.”
So: Where do things go from here?
Van Flein told the ADN that he’d likely decide today whether Todd Palin, who also been subponaed but is not a state employee, will testify, which would occur at a session of the Judiciary Committee tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the band of lawmakers struggling to maintain control of the investigation — French, Elton, and their supporters in the legislature — certainly aren’t backing down.
Despite saying he might agree to GOP calls to reconvene the legislative council, Elton sent a letter yesterday to Colberg, the Attorney General, accusing him of going back on an agreement to allow the ten state employees testify. “Bluntly, I feel like Charlie Brown after Lucy moved the football,” Elton wrote to Colberg.
Sen. Bill Wielechowski, a Democrat and French ally, told TPMmuckraker: “Hollis French has no intention of buckling under,” and said that the same holds true of Elton.
The operation, Wielechowski continued, is “clearly politically driven by the McCain campaign.”
“I’ve never seen an effort like this in this state to kill something,” he added. “I don’t think this is gonna end quietly.”