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What is Troopergate?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated May 17, 2024
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Troopergate is the common nickname for the Alaska Public Safety Commissioner dismissal event. Troopergate took place in July of 2008, and involved the Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, who was also the Republican Vice Presidential Candidate.

At issue in Troopergate was the firing of the Public Safety Commissioner of Alaska, Walt Monegan. Governor Palin has stated that she fired Monegan because of inadequate performance, but Monegan has said he believes his dismissal was related to his refusal to fire an Alaskan State Trooper, Mike Wooten.

Mike Wooten was married to Molly McCann, Governor Palin’s sister. The connection between Wooten and Palin is at the center of the Troopergate controversy, and it’s necessary to go back to 2000 to really understand it. In 2000, Palin was mayor of the city of Wasilla, and at that time wrote a character recommendation for Mike Wooten, who was then dating Molly McCann. Wooten used this character recommendation to get a job as an Alaska State Trooper in early 2001.

In 2005, Molly McCann filed for divorce. McCann has stated that after filing, Wooten threatened McCann and Palin’s father if he helped with the divorce, and threatened to take down Palin if she helped. In late 2005, Palin wrote to the chief of the state police, Julia Grimes, suggesting Wooten be dismissed, and telling about Wooten’s threats towards her father. During the divorce proceedings, the judge himself commented on the strangeness of McCann’s family, including Sarah Palin, trying to have Wooten’s position with the troopers terminated, since it would make him unable to pay child support.

During the proceedings, the representative for the State Trooper’s union noted that they viewed the continued complaints by Palin and McCann against Wooten as a form of harassment. The judge warned McCann to stop disparaging Wooten’s reputation, and when the divorce proceedings were finished, he noted that he continued to be worried.

In 2006, as a result of an internal investigation of Wooten, during which he was found to have violated internal policy, he was suspended from service. The chief of the state police referred to the investigation, and suspended Wooten for ten days, then later reduced the suspension to five days after the union protested the decision.

Also in 2006, Sarah Palin took office as the Governor of Alaska. It was the power granted by this office that allowed for the perceived abuse of power known as Troopergate to occur. Troopergate really began when Palin’s husband invited the new Public Safety Commissioner, whom Palin had appointed, to dinner and requested he reopen the Wooten issue. He followed the request, and determined that there was nothing further he could do.

Troopergate continued from there, with Monegan asserting that Palin contacted him two more times personally to ask him to do something about the situation. He also asserted that she brought it up many times in various emails. Two years later, in July of 2008, Monegan was let go. Although many reasons were brought up as to why Monegan was let go, mostly relating to taking the department in a different direction, the feeling that it may have been as a result of his refusal to take harsh action against Wooten grew among many people, leading to Troopergate.

Since the situation became public, Troopergate has been at the center of a number of news cycles. Both sides comment repeatedly on the Troopergate issue, and it has become a central theme in the 2008 Presidential Elections, drawing criticism to Sarah Palin.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By CarrotIsland — On May 31, 2011

@dega2010- That whole situation was an interesting case. They released a 263-page report on the matter. It stated that Monegan was terminated because of a budget dispute. John McCain was hoping that the matter would not turn public until after the presidential campaign since Palin was his running partner. However, the lawmakers agreed that the report should be released.

There were no sanctions or criminal investigations in the matter against Palin. That, in itself, caused a lot of controversy because many people thought that Palin should suffer some kind of consequences or repercussions.

By GrumpyGuppy — On May 30, 2011

@dega2010- Don’t quote me as I might not have every detail correct but this is what I found on the subject. There was a legislative investigation on the Palin Troopergate issue. They concluded that Palin did indeed abuse her power by trying to have the state trooper fired. That was a 12-0 vote by the legislative council.

They were also investigating whether or not Palin fired Monegan for legitimate reasons. It was determined that Monegan’s refusal to fire Wooten was a “contributing factor” but that Palin firing him was “a proper and lawful exercise” of her authority.

By dega2010 — On May 29, 2011

So, did anything else ever come of this? Was there a formal hearing or anything?

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