Sarah Palin's Troopergate Scandal Reveals Her Fundamentalist Street Cred

Election '08
Editor's note: This is a round-up of two key articles that reveal more about Palin's Christian Right ties.

Kopp Hiring Proved Palin's Fundamentalist Street Cred
by Alan Boraas, Anchorage Daily News

So far Gov. Palin's handling of Alaska's Troopergate has focused on why Commissioner of Public Safety Walt Monegan was fired. An equally important question is why Chuck Kopp was hired to replace him.

On June 30, 2008, David Brody of CBS News reported John McCain met in North Carolina with Rev. Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, director of the multimillion-dollar Samaritan's Place faith-based charitable organization. McCain was courting the religious right who, at the time, were skeptical of his social conservatism and his Christian qualifications. After the meeting Graham issued a statement praising McCain's "personal faith" and added, "We had an opportunity to pray for God's will to be done in this upcoming election."

Subsequent events suggest that the price of support for McCain by the fundamentalist Christian leadership would be a vice presidential candidate of their liking. Gov. Palin was a logical choice for Franklin Graham, whose ties to Alaska include a palatial, by Bush Alaska standards, second home in Port Alsworth: a community that has often served as a retreat for Christian fundamentalist leaders.

But Gov. Palin did not promote a socially conservative agenda during her first two years as governor and some Alaska right-wing commentators called her an economic liberal. Send us a sign, national fundamentalist Christian leaders seemingly said, that proves your credentials. In firing Monegan and hiring Kopp, Palin would have gained a controversial measure of revenge in a family dispute and established her standing as a Christian conservative politician.

Kenai City Police Chief Chuck Kopp was a rising star in Alaska's Christian conservative movement. He was a frequent speaker at local religious and patriotic gatherings. He was school board president of Cook Inlet Academy, the fundamentalist Christian high school in Soldotna his missionary-educator father founded. Kopp also was on the board of Port Alsworth's Tanailan Bible Camp, also founded by his father.

Through Samaritan's Place, Franklin Graham has been the chief benefactor of the Tanailan Bible Camp building and rebuilding a church and meeting hall and guest cabins. The evangelical scion of Alaska, Rev. Jerry Prevo of the Anchorage Baptist Temple, is on Samaritan Purse's Board of Directors, so there's a clear connection between Graham, Prevo and Kopp.

Kopp's nomination quickly ran into trouble because of sexual harassment reprimands while Kenai police chief, but Palin's willingness to appoint him to a high state position along with her anti-abortion, pro-creationist beliefs seems to have solidified her position as the one to ignite the base for McCain. Kevin Merida reported in the Washington Post that when Palin met with the Alaska delegation after her nomination during the recent Republican National Convention, Rev. Prevo, a member of the delegation, said Palin asked them to pray for her. Then Prevo handed the governor his cell phone; it was Franklin Graham calling to congratulate her.

Palin's connection to what Jeff Sharlett has called "elite fundamentalism" is of interest now that she is an election and a heartbeat away from the presidency. Franklin Graham has been the keynote speaker for the Alaska Governor's Prayer Breakfast the past two years. According to their Web site, the organizers believe, "God directs the affairs of Man and is the ultimate authority over human events." The Alaska Governor's Prayer Breakfast is connected to the National Prayer Breakfast sponsored by The Fellowship Foundation, also known as "The Family," which espouses similar beliefs. The Family is headed by Doug Coe, one of the most influential evangelicals in Washington, D.C. Coe's group tends to operate behind the scenes organizing small cells attended by the power elite, mostly Republicans. George Bush was saved in such a cell while in Texas.

Elite fundamentalists believe, according to Sharlett, not only in religious determinism but that they are personally chosen by God to be in positions of power. By claiming divine legitimacy of their political power, elite fundamentalists relegate the opposition to being the devil's tool. They are making a frighteningly close return to the pre-enlightenment concept of rule by divine right, which our founding fathers rejected as anathema to democracy and established, instead, the separation of church and state lest decisions be made on the basis of good versus evil rather than wise versus unwise.

Whether or not Sarah Palin pandered to the Christian fundamentalist right on the back of a good man's career and believes she was chosen by God only she can say. Likewise, only John McCain can say whether he sold his political soul and selected the least prepared vice presidential candidate in United States history for the sake of political gain. The electorate deserves some answers.

Alan Boraas is a professor of anthropology at Kenai Peninsula College.

Guess Who Filed Suit to Halt Troopergate
From the Election confidential blog

On September 16th ABC News reported, "A group of Alaska Republican lawmakers, with the support of a Texas-based conservative legal group, has filed suit to stop the Alaska Legislature's "Troopergate" probe into Gov. Sarah Palin." The ABC coverage was not untypical of mainstream media coverage generally and is not being singled out for scrutiny.

This "Texas-based conservative legal group" is generally referred to as LLI (Liberty Legal Institute).  Their website, which is very open and honest, may be found here.

To describe the LLI as a "conservative legal group" is like describing O. J. Simpson as a "well-dressed African-American".  Both are true, as far as they go.

LLI describes themselves as, "a 501(c)(3) organization that was founded in 1997 to protect religious freedoms and First Amendment rights for individuals, groups and churches." This self-description is from the front page of their website.  The site also quickly makes clear that the First Amendment Rights they defend are those of the religious right.  The banner of one page proudly displays this quote, "Group is the flip side to ACLU. [sic]" - Dallas Morning News

A quick click on the "Cases" tab reveals 14 cases under the headline of "Recent Cases".  Briefly looking through the summaries, 11 are plainly related to religion.  In the other three cases a connection to religion is unclear.  One has to do with a high school student's political tee shirt, one has to do with a political contribution and one has to do with the wording on a town monument.  All case were based in Texas.

The question the list raises is what interest does this firm have in the firing of a Police Commissioner in Alaska?  Nothing in their past or in their charter shows an interest in such cases.  They have no offices outside the state of Texas and work only pro bono cases related to civil liberties.

Enter the Arlington Group.

LLI is a member of the 75-member "Arlington Group", a Washington-based, religious-right consortium which seeks to influence government policy on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.  The Arlington group was founded in 2002 through the joint effort of powerful members of the religious right including Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Chuck Colson, D. James Kennedy, Gary Bauer and Rod Parsley.

The groups first director was James Dobson.  Although very influential then and now, the Arlington Group famously stubbed it's toe when they threatened, in 2005, to oppose President George W. Bush's Social Security Reforms if he did not come out strongly against same-sex marriage.  The media was angered and the compliance of the Bush administration failed to stem the tide of same-sex marriage legislation.

The Arlington Group effectively limits its self to what its members agree on.  Pooled resources go toward the election and appointment of judges with anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage records.  The group does discuss the possibility of getting behind a particular candidate, but it is not necessary that they agree.  They are very effectively tied into a couple of very narrowly defined issues with which all members totally agree.  The election of politicians is basically a means to the end of those politicians appointing judges who share their agenda.

So why is the LLI in Anchorage using words like "McCarthyism" to halt a bipartisan investigation of the Alaskan State Legislature into the Governor of that State?  Here are a few possibilities:

1. It really is McCarthyism.  The Alaskan Legislature wants to prove that Governor Palin is a communist plant for the now defunct Soviet Union.

2. The LLI believes that for a State Legislature to investigate the firing of a Commissioner by a Governor impinges upon the Governor's right to the religious expression required in such a firing.

3. The LLI believes there are no competent attorneys in Alaska, the RNC or any of the considerable number of states separating Texas and Alaska to help the embattled Governor.

4. The LLI believes that fired commissioner Walt Monegan and the State Senator heading the investigation, Hollis French are betrothed.

5. The LLI wants to pervert justice to perpetuate the strongest anti-abortion candidate ever.  A candidate bold enough to strike rape kits from her city's budget because they contain emergency contraception (the equivalent to a "morning after pill").

Wouldn't it be a shame to find out that they are doing all of this based on number four, only to find out later that Monegan and French were divorced a year ago?

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