By Zachary Roth
September 16, 2008
The GOP campaign to thwart the Trooper-Gate investigation cranked into even higher gear early this morning, with an emailed announcement by Anchorage attorney Kevin Clarkson that, on behalf of five Republican members, he is suing to halt the investigation. Clarkson argued in the email that Democratic senators Hollis French and Kim Elton, and independent investigator Steve Branchflower have inappropriately politicized the probe "in an attempt to unlawfully smear Gov. Palin." The Republican legislators behind the move are Representatives Wes Keller, Mike Kelly, and Bob Lynn, and Senators Fred Dyson and Sen. Tom Wagoner.
In addition, the GOP Speaker of the House, Rep. John Harris, released a letter today in which he asserted that what "started as a bipartisan and impartial effort is becoming overshadowed by public comments from individuals at both ends of the political spectrum."
And McCain staffers were all over the airwaves making a similar claim, and arguing that, as a result, the matter should be turned over to the state personnel board -- a request made originally by Palin's lawyer.
There's evidence of additional involvement by national Republicans in the effort to stymie the probe. Clarkson told the Associated Press he's working with the Liberty Legal Institute (LLI) a Texas nonprofit legal firm that's donating its time. The LLI is the legal arm of the Free Market Foundation, a conservative activist group that describes itself on its website as "the statewide public policy council associated with Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family." Dobson, of course, is a key religious right leader and GOP power-broker.
As for Clarkson himself, one veteran Anchorage attorney described him, in an email to TPMmuckraker, as "a religious conservative who is known for taking on politically charged cases that get his name in the paper," but added that he "is not a heavy hitter".
By all accounts, this particular effort to get the courts to stop the probe is unlikely to succeed, as few courts would be likely to want to intervene in the management of an internal legislative matter. But the move may be designed as much to create political pressure on French and his allies to back down or soft pedal the investigation.
Original headlne: "GOP Legislators Enlist Right-Wing Lawyers to Stymie Trooper-Gate Probe"