The Branchflower Report is out. Obama supporter, Sarah Palin stalker, Troopergate investigation frontman, and Alaska State Senator Hollis French promised the world an “October Surprise” with this report on Sarah Palin’s firing of Walter Monegan (this promise, of course, was issued before a single witness had uttered a word). Technically speaking, he didn’t disappoint (that is to say, the report did come in October as promised). Substantively speaking, the report was lacking a certain punch.
Ann Althouse, on the other hand, thinks this is a red flag:
Lots of us like Sarah Palin and have high hopes for her in this election and the next, but let’s resist the impulse to slough off this report. It means something.
She doesn’t say what that something is, and I must admit I’m at a loss to say what it means myself, at least regarding Palin. Link to the full report, highlighting of the nut graphs, and implications below the break.
Steve Branchflower, the investigator working under the employ and direction of Sen. French, came up with the following lead conclusions (here is the complete report, in PDF format):
Finding Number One
For the reasons explained in section IV of this report, I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act. Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) provides
The legislature reaffirms 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.
Finding Number Two
I find that, although Walt Monegan’s refusal to fire Trooper Michael Wooten was not the sole reason he was fired by Governor Sarah Palin, it was likely a contributing factor to his termination as Commissioner of Public Safety. In spite of that, Governor Palin’s firing of Commissioner Monegan was a proper and lawful exercise of her constitutional and statutory authority to hire and fire executive branch department heads.
In other words, she abused her power, but she had every right to do so. WTF, Steve? Or, as Beldar put it a little less bluntly:
Please understand this, if you take nothing else away from reading this post: The Branchflower Report is a series of guess and insupportable conclusions drawn by exactly one guy, and it hasn’t been approved or adopted or endorsed by so much as a single sub-committee of the Alaska Legislature, much less any kind of commission, court, jury, or other proper adjudicatory body. It contains no new bombshells in terms of factual revelations. Rather, it’s just Steve Branchflower’s opinion — after being hired and directed by one of Gov. Palin’s most vocal opponents and one of Alaska’s staunchest Obama supporters — that he thinks Gov. Palin had, at worst, mixed motives for an action that even Branchflower admits she unquestionably had both (a) the complete right to perform and (b) other very good reasons to perform.
Sadly, this flimsy piece of witch-hunting will nevertheless put the McCain campaign back (or more accurately, further back) on the defensive. Allahpundit is of the opinion that the damage will be limited to a few isolated independents falling off here and there, but I think he’s viewing this development in a vacuum. McCain/Palin’s momentum is already southbound, and while the Branchflower Report by itself would do little to halt an upward trend, or to begin a downward one, but it’s not all that hard to accelerate a decline already in progress.
The McCain campaign should either go into full-out spin mode to undermine this report, stressing its lack of substantive findings and total absence of support among the rest of the Alaskan government, or blow it off completely. (The latter is more risky, but since there isn’t much in the report for the news media to grab onto, there is merit to the idea of denying it any oxygen.) In either case, whatever they decide to do, they should do it fast. They’re going to need all the time they can scrape together to try to pin the Wall Street collapse on Obama and congressional Democrats (something else they need to get moving on very soon).