Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Power to Arrest

The AG’s action will likely stoke the partisan fervor further. Almost certainly, this will wind up being handled by the judiciary, which will have to determine whether the AG can actually block the legislative subpoenas, and whether the probe has run off the rails. Since that is a political rather than legal question (unless I missed something in the state constitution), the judiciary will probably throw it all back to the Legislature.
The Legislative Council needs to meet to take back control of this issue from Hollis French and Kim Elton. Either they need to appoint less-partisan special masters from among their own ranks, or they need to end the probe altogether. They could also shift the probe to the State Personnel Board, as Palin’s team has suggested, although that has its own issues; it would have the executive branch investigating the head of the branch, and while they could do that with little problem, it may not satisfy concerns over the potential lack of independence of the probe.
These are the vital safeguards, the core democratic functions, which the Bush administration and now the McCain/Palin campaign are flagrantly subverting.

Anyone with doubts about the seriousness of this abuse of power investigation should just listen to the audio recording of Gov. Palin's top aide, Frank Bailey, calling the Police Commissioner's office and badgering them about firing Palin's ex-brother-in-law, repeatedly suggesting he was doing so on behalf of Palin. The sleaze and impropriety oozes off the audio. That was but one of dozens of similar communications made by close Palin associates, including her husband, prior to the time Palin fired the Police Commissioner. Palin quite implausibly denies that they did so at her behest, and has offered an endless series of shifting explanations for the firing. That's what the Legislature is trying to investigate by questioning her husband and top aides -- and that is what the Palins are now overtly impeding by breaking the law: i.e., refusing to comply with legislative subpoenas.
Wonder what would happen if the Legislative Council began asserting itself? Does the Alaska constitution give them the power to reconvene the legislature?

Section 2.9 - Special Sessions.

Special sessions may be called by the governor or by vote of two-thirds of the legislators. The vote may be conducted by the legislative council or as prescribed by law. At special sessions called by the governor, legislation shall be limited to subjects designated in his proclamation calling the session, to subjects presented by him, and the reconsideration of bills vetoed by him after adjournment of the last regular session. Special sessions are limited to thirty days.

Or what if they held a contempt vote anyway? And issued their own arrest warrants under their inherent authority to enforce their own subpoenas? A subpoena isn't a subpoena if there's no independent power to enforce it. It's inherent in the authority to issue them, which the Legislative Council has by law. Gosh, wouldn't that be interesting for the Alaska State Troopers? (h/t to bmaz at emptywheel's corner of Firedoglake for the tip on the statutes.)

Sure it would end up in court. But it will anyway, since the Palins are already testing a novel legal theory. So why not join them? Let's make it a he said/she said story. Make full use of the Republican-developed "some say" framing. "Some say" the governor and her coterie are absolutely immune from all legislative oversight.

And "some say" Todd Palin is a fugitive from justice.

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