For most of her tenure as governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin has enjoyed widespread popularity and a reputation as a maverick who refused to stand by fellow Alaska Republicans facing their own ethics scandals.
But the 44-year-old Palin, who was selected as Sen. John McCain's running mate today, is now the focus of her own state ethics investigation as part of the so-called "Troopergate" scandal, a bizarre controversy involving the firing of a state police chief and his reluctance to fire an Alaska state trooper, Palin's former brother-in-law who has been involved in a bitter custody fight with her younger sister.
Just two weeks ago, Palin revealed an audio recording of an aide pressuring the state's Public Safety Department to fire trooper Mike Wooten, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
A portion of Gov. Sarah Palin's (R-Alaska) July interview with CNBC:
Palin also acknowledged that her staff had contacted Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan about two dozen times about Wooten. Monegan himself was fired July 11 (the dismissal was "out of the blue," he told reporters) and he later said that he was pressured by Palin's staff and family to get rid of Wooten, a trooper based in Palmer, Alaska.
(To counter the "Troopergate" tag, the alternative-weekly Anchorage Press has dubbed the firing scandal "Wootengate")
The accusations first surfaced via the blog of former Alaska state rep. Andrew Halcro, who unsuccessfully ran against Palin in 2006.
(On Palin's selection as McCain's vice-presidential pick, Halcro wrote that "this shocking choice says more about McCain's desparation than it does about Palin's qualifications.")
In July, Palin came under a state ethics investigation and critics have said Palin's claim that she did not know of the political pressure being placed on Monegan was a "little too convenient." One fellow lawmaker, state Sen. Hollis French, a Democrat, told The Wall Street Journal that Palin could face impeachment. After French's comments, Palin ordered the investigation into Monegan's firing and told CNBC last month that lawmakers were unfairly targeting her.
"It's cool. I want them to ask me the questions. I don't have anything to hide," she said during the interview. "Didn't do anything wrong there."
The investigation is expected to cost about $100,000 and last at least three months, according to The Associated Press.
The governor has insisted that her decision to fire Monegan in July had nothing to do with former brother-in-law Wooten. Instead, she argued that Monegan "wasn't doing enough to fill state trooper vacancies and battle alcohol abuse issues," according to the Daily News.
The Daily News reports the Palins' fight with Wooten has been especially nasty and public, with the family accusing Wooten of drunken driving, illegal hunting and child abuse, among other charges, based on information culled from private investigators. Wooten and Palin's sister, Molly McCann, divorced in 2005.
The governor's husband, Todd Palin, told the Daily News that his family was also concerned about the governor's safety, saying Wooten threatened to kill the governor's father and made vague threats to her that he would bring Palin down.