Apology from McCain sought

PERSONAL: Phillips, Croft say the campaign's attacks hurt Monegan's reputation.

November 1, 2008 

Republican presidential nominee John McCain should apologize for his campaign's personal attacks on the Alaskan at the heart of the 'Troopergate' controversy, according two former Alaska legislative leaders.

Former House Speaker Gail Phillips, a Republican, and former Senate President Chancy Croft, a Democrat, on Friday said McCain's campaign representatives made attacks that damaged the reputation of Walt Monegan, Gov. Sarah Palin's fired public safety commissioner.

Palin, McCain's vice presidential running mate, dismissed Monegan in July. At the time, she said she wanted the department to move in a different direction.

Monegan weeks later said his dismissal was tied to his refusal to fire Alaska State Trooper Mike Wooten, who was involved in a bitter divorce and custody battle with Palin's sister. Before Monegan was hired, Wooten had been disciplined for drinking beer in his patrol car, demonstrating a Taser on his 10-year-old stepson and illegally shooting a moose.

An investigator hired by a bipartisan legislative panel concluded that Palin unlawfully abused her power as governor by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired.

Phillips and Croft said that in the run-up to the investigator's report, the McCain campaign disparaged Monegan and tried to kill the investigation.

"It's unconscionable that an outside campaign organization which had no knowledge of the history, background or understanding of an Alaskan issue would come to our State to destroy the reputation and life of a dedicated Alaskan public servant," Phillips and Croft said in a joint statement.

A spokesman for the McCain campaign in Alaska had not seen the letter and could not immediately comment.


Alaska's Democratic and Republican parties spent Friday lobbying barbs and accusations, with each side accusing the other of subterfuge and chicanery in trying to push their candidates into the winners' circle on Election Day.

The Democrats got off the first shot just before 9 a.m.

Party spokesman Mike Doogan, a House incumbent seeking re-election in District 25, issued a press release accusing the Republican Party and its chairman, Randy Ruedrich, of breaking campaign finance laws by disguising as "independent expenditures" what the Democrats say are coordinated campaign attack ads against another Democrat, District 21 incumbent Rep. Harry Crawford.

Groups that pay for "independent expenditure" ads, under state law, can't have any contact with the campaigns of any candidates who stand to benefit from them.

Doogan's press release says the ads the Republican Party paid to mail out to District 21 voters pushed the same points Crawford's opponent, Republican Gene Brokaw, has been using in his own ads.

The Democrats said they plan to file a complaint with the Alaska Public Offices Commission asking it to investigate. Later in the day, Doogan said the party has mailed a copy of its complaint to the Republicans and Brokaw, a requisite first step to filing an APOC complaint.

The Republican Party already has donated, in other contributions, almost the entire $10,000 to Brokaw's campaign it is allowed, the Democrats said. If the latest mailers are ruled not to be independent expenditures, the Republicans have busted their limit, Doogan said.

The ads, Doogan said in the press release, are "the usual Randy Ruedrich stuff. Last minute. Baseless. And probably illegal."

Ruedrich and the Republicans fired back several hours later.

"The charges made by the Anchorage Democrats are false and reckless and are a sad and desperate ploy to aid their candidates," that press release said.

The Republicans' statement insists the mailers are indeed independent expenditures, and notes that state law sets no limit on the amount that can be set on such advertising.

The Republicans demand that the Democrats withdraw their "knowingly false and frivolous complaint" and threaten to "seek all remedies" if it is not.


The Republicans also took a whack at the state Division of Elections, calling the agency's discarding of its complaint about Democratic House candidate Chris Tuck's eligibility "a blatant disregard for voter fraud."

"I am sad to say I am not surprised that the Division of Elections displayed this level of incompetence and negligence regarding the eligibility of Chris Tuck as a candidate," Republican chairman Ruedrich says in that release.

In short, the Republicans argue that Tuck is not Tuck's legal last name, nor the one he should use on his voter registration or in signing up to run for office.

Tuck was born Christopher Mestas, the last name of the biological father he says abandoned his mother before his birth. Tuck is the name of his stepfather.

Tuck is registered to vote as Christopher Tuck, his Social Security number is under that name, and he says he's used it since he was a child. The name Mestas appears on some of his public records, however, including his birth certificate and, the Republicans say, his drivers' license. He applies for his Permanent Fund dividend as Mestas-Tuck.

The Republican Party filed a complaint with the elections division in late September, arguing that Mestas is the candidate's legal name, and the one he's required to use to run for election. They wanted him disqualified.

After consulting with the state Department of Law, elections director Gail Fenumiai ruled in Tuck's favor this week and said he's eligible to run. The Republicans, however, argue that Fenumiai's decision didn't address their main argument about the legality of the name the candidate is using.

After Fenumiai issued her decision in his favor Monday, Tuck said he was relieved.

"Now we can start focusing on issues rather than technicalities," he said then.

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