One of those firings has put Gov. Sarah Palin at the center of an ongoing legislative investigation that presumably will require her to testify about whether she was behind efforts by her husband and senior staff to pressure the state's public safety commissioner to fire her ex-brother-in-law from the state troopers.
When the commissioner, former Anchorage police chief Walter Monegan, refused to go along, he was summarily ousted by Palin without much explanation.
Unless the Republicans can figure out a way to block Palin's sworn deposition, she will have to either admit that she used her political influence to wage a family vendetta or she must face the risk that her continued denials of involvement will be contradicted by her own staff or by some other evidence.
However, if Palin admits that she did use her government office to punish a personal enemy – or that she fired the public safety commissioner because he refused to join in her family feud – the Republicans may have trouble continuing to sell Palin as a reform-minded governor.
Instead, Palin would appear to fit more neatly with Bush administration operatives who engineered the firing of nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006 and who employed ideological litmus tests in deciding who to hire for career jobs at the Justice Department.
As Kyle Sampson, chief of staff to then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, famously put it: the motive for purging the federal prosecutors was to eliminate those who were deemed not "loyal Bushies."
Some of the U.S. Attorneys, such as New Mexico's David Iglesias, had balked at political pressure before Election 2006 to bring what the prosecutors considered flimsy voter-fraud cases against prominent Democrats.
Now it appears that Sarah Palin shares the Bush administration's view about putting cronies in key law-enforcement jobs, making hers act like "loyal Palinistas." As mayor of the tiny town of Wasilla and as governor of Alaska, she fired two top law-enforcement officials when they didn't show sufficient loyalty or obedience to her.
Ousting the Chief
In 1996, after winning the election to be mayor of Wasilla then with a population of about 5,000, Palin sought to oust six department heads because they had signed a letter supporting the previous mayor, their old boss. Palin ultimately fired two of them, including the police chief.
Wasilla's ousted police chief, Irl Stambaugh, sued Palin in 1997 for alleged contract violation, wrongful termination and gender discrimination The police chief claimed Palin fired him not for cause but for being disloyal and because he was a man whose size – 6 feet and 200 pounds – intimidated her.
However, a federal judge dismissed Stambaugh's lawsuit.
So, having escaped any serious damage for punishing Wasilla's police chief for a supposed lack of political loyalty, Palin had little reason not to throw her weight around when she became Alaska's governor in December 2006.
By then, Palin was deeply involved in her family's vendetta against her sister's ex-husband, trooper Mike Wooten. Through complaints to his superiors, Palin already had helped engineer Wooten's five-day suspension from the state police earlier in 2006 for various examples of personal misconduct.
In January 2007, a month into Palin's term, her husband, Todd, invited Palin's new public safety commissioner Monegan to the governor's office, where Todd Palin urged Monegan to reopen the Wooten case. After checking on it, Monegan informed Todd Palin that he couldn't do anything because the case was closed.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Monegan said that a few days later, the governor also called him about the Wooten matter and he gave her the same answer. Monegan said Gov. Palin brought the issue up again in a February 2007 meeting at the state capitol, prompting his warning that she should back off.