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Senator: Palin probe will be done before election

The Alaska lawmaker directing an abuse-of-power investigation of Gov. Sarah Palin promised Friday that the probe will be finished before the election, despite refusals by key witnesses to testify, including the governor's husband.

After waiting 35 minutes for Todd Palin and two state administrative employees to appear under subpoena before the state Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Hollis French condemned their refusal to testify and the attorney general's broken promise that seven other witnesses would testify who were not subpoenaed.

French said Stephen Branchflower, the retired prosecutor hired by the Alaska Legislature to investigate Palin, will conclude his investigation by Oct. 10. Still, that report will not include testimony from the Republican vice presidential nominee, her husband or most of the top aides Branchflower hoped to interview.

Sarah Palin's allies hoped the investigation would be delayed past the election to spare her any troublesome revelations – or at least the distraction – before voters have made their choice. Palin's reputation as clean-government advocate is central to her appeal as Republican John McCain's running mate.

Palin initially promised to cooperate in the investigation, telling the Legislature to “hold me accountable.” Lawmakers were investigating accusations she dismissed the state's public safety commissioner because he refused to fire her ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper. She now opposes the investigation.

Palin spokesman Bill McAllister declined to comment Friday. The McCain campaign said there are concerns about the effect of political influence on the Legislature's inquiry and Palin will provide any information needed to the Alaska State Personnel Board.

Todd Palin's attorney sent French a letter Thursday listing Palin's objections to the investigation of his wife.

Witnesses who refuse to testify can be found in contempt under Alaska law. But the full Legislature must be in session, which won't happen until January. That means witnesses can stonewall without penalty beyond the Nov. 4 election, lawmakers said.

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