Miller Signed on to Help Thwart a Legislative Investigation into Palin’s Abuse of Power

The year 2008 was a busy one for Joe Miller. An attorney in private practice who was also busy doing part-time legal work for the Fairbanks North Star Borough, he was also serving as the Interior region chair for the Alaska Republican Party. By March, he was actively working to unseat state party chair Randy Ruedrich in the belief the party needed a leader who would fully back Gov. Sarah Palin. Six months later, Miller signed on to represent a group trying to thwart a legislative investigation into whether Palin — who had just rocketed onto the national stage as the GOP’s pick for vice president — abused the power of her office when she fired the state’s top cop. Palin and Miller’s paths would collide again two years later when the half term governor endorsed Miller’s run for Senate, drawing national attention to his campaign.

Critics on both sides viewed what would come to be known as the “Troopergate” scandal and all of its twists, including the investigations and the lawsuits, as political gymnastics. We don’t know how Miller felt at the time or how he feels about it now. Attempts to reach him for comment on this story, through his campaign staff, went unanswered.

Miller’s jump into the Troopergate fray came on Sept. 16, 2008, when he filed suit in Fairbanks to stop an investigation already set in motion by the state’s Legislative Council. Miller sued on behalf of five Alaskans from the Fairbanks and North Pole communities who wished to “secure their rights as taxpayers and citizens of the State of Alaska to be free from unauthorized, wasteful, and unlawful government spending,” according to the opening sentence of Miller’s complaint.

The investigation into Troopergate was looking into allegations that Palin abused her power and position, she wrongfully removed Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan from office because he refused to end the career of her sister’s ex-husband, Mike Wooten. Wooten was (and is) an Alaska State Trooper with a bitterly strained relationship with the Palin family. There were claims Wooten tried to threaten and intimidate the Palins, and Miller and others were baffled as to why the man continued to be employed in Palin’s hometown.

The Legislature, however, was more interested in the governor’s efforts to get Wooten fired. Miller centered his legal argument against the investigation on questions of constitutionality, echoing a theme the self-described “constitutional conservative” is again loudly raising in his bid to dislodge incumbent Lisa Murkowski from office: overreaching government authority. In his complaint he called the investigation “politically-inspired and unconstitutional.”

Miller argued that another government entity — the state Personnel Board — was the appropriate jurisdiction to pursue claims about ethics problems within the executive branch. Allowing the Legislative Council to investigate opened the process to unfair political influences, he said. With a Democratic senator leading the charge and hinting the outcome wouldn’t be good for Palin, the process lacked integrity and fairness, Miller argued.

Among Miller’s direct claims was the charge the investigation violated separation of powers by exceeding the constitutional authority of the Legislature. The Legislative Council had no authority to fund the investigation, on which it had agreed to spend to $100,000. And, he said, Democratic Sen. Hollis French’s oversight of the process violated constitutional due process guarantees by putting a partisan legislator in charge of what was supposed to be an independent investigation of an elected official.

To Miller’s way of thinking, the investigation was “blatantly unlawful,” as he wrote in a column for the Catholic News Agency published less than a week after he filed the lawsuit.

But Miller never pressed his legal arguments. After a judge ruled against plaintiffs in a similar case filed in Anchorage, Miller voluntarily dropped the Fairbanks case.

This came as no surprise to the attorney representing the Legislative Council, to the investigator it hired, or to French.

“It is hard to imagine a lawsuit more dangerous to Alaska’s tripartite form of government than one that asks the courts to instruct the Legislature that there are certain executive actions that are off-limits to legislative inquiry, certain legislators who are too ‘partisan’ to be assigned responsibility in legislative investigations, and certain people whom the Legislature cannot employ as investigators. That is what this suit does,” wrote attorney Peter Maasen in his answer to Miller’s complaint. “Fortunately, under Alaska’s separation-of-powers principles and case law, the complaint is clearly meritless as a matter of law. The court should dismiss it.”
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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. WakeUpAmerica
    Oct 01, 2010 @ 13:10:52

    I think Alaska is in a dead heat with Florida for the crown for the most corrupt state.


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