Adultery. The Tasering of a child. A disputed moose carcass. A family feud that may have led to the inappropriate firing of a government official. John McCain’s new running mate Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, comes with a vivid and colorful back-story, well worth the attention of America’s journalistic community.
It seems that before Palin became governor, her sister Molly McCann’s marriage to Alaska state trooper Mike Wooten disintegrated. The divorce and the custody battle appear to have been bitter. In 2005, Palin and her husband pushed the state troopers to investigate Wooten for driving while drunk, for using a Taser on his stepson, and for shooting a moose without a permit. They even hired a private investigator to speed the process along. Wooten was eventually suspended for ten days, a sentence reduced to five days after his union protested. But after Palin became governor, she continued to push the Troopers to punish Wooten further, and she may have stepped over the line by firing of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan when he failed to respond to her pressure.
The alleged violation of government integrity by a personal agenda—that’s business as usual. What makes this fun and new is how messy it is. There’s lots here that isn’t very vice presidential. Take the moose, for example. Apparently it was shot in 2003, and Wooten indeed lacked the permit necessary for shooting it. But his wife did have the permit, and she was standing beside him at the time, and once they had killed the moose, they dropped the carcass off at the house of her father, Chuck Heath—who’s also Sarah Palin’s father. Wooten later told blogger Andrew Halcro that Palin did not object to the moose-killing at the time. Not only that, Wooten claims that Palin helped to eat the moose.
It’s hard to know whether the claim is true. “CHUCK [Heath] did most of the butchering,” Mike Wooten told an investigator for the Alaska Department of Public Safety in September 2005. “Boning and stuff like that he did most of that.” Wooten said that he took the rest to Shop Right and had it made into burgers and sausage. Wooten also claimed that during the hunt itself, when he and his wife spotted the moose, he asked her if she wanted to shoot it, and she told him to. On this topic and that of the moose carcass’s fate, however, Governor Palin told a different story when the Department of Public Safety interviewed her in August 2005.
[Palin]: . . . He went hunting with MOLLY and with WPD Officer CHRIS WATCHUS. He shot a moose. It was a . . . it was a drawing permit system. So he was . . . MOLLY had the tag MIKE shot it anyway. Didn’t give MOLLY a chance even to shoot it. CHRIS WATCHUS my understanding is didn’t . . . it’s never it didn’t register with him that, that “Oh MIKE you just illegally shot this. He doesn’t have the tag.” Cause he wouldn’t have known. But MIKE shot it. Umm . . . didn’t know how to or didn’t want to. I don’t think he even knew how to. Didn’t, didn’t want to process the meat umm . . . dropped it off at my dad’s house knowing that my dad was home and my dad would take care of it if it needed to be taken care of rather then [sic] go to waste. . . .
My dad process[ed] it. MIKE never did come back to gg-pick up the moose or anything else so my dad brought the meat over to MIKE’s house even. He probably even put it in his freezer for him because MIKE didn’t ah appear to have any intention at all of . . . using the moose or eating the moose.
This seems to be a touchy point in Alaska, not eating a moose after killing it. Wooten claims he paid $500 for the processing at Shop Right, and that it fed his family for a year. But check it out for yourselves. A number of the transcripts and emails in the Great Moose Carcass Controversy are available at the blog Celtic Diva’s Blue Oasis and in the sidebar to an Anchorage Daily News story about whether Wooten is as bad an egg as Palin makes him out to be. Whatever the verdict on Wooten, Palin emerges rather clearly as petty, vindictive, and lacking in judgment.