Update: Wayne Ross this morning sent a letter to legislators responding to the Burton letter. He categorically denies saying what the letter asserts he said. If you don't want to download the PDF, you can read it in full here.
From Sean Cockerham in Juneau ---
A letter surfaced Wednesday night in the state Senate Judiciary Committee, making allegations that Gov. Sarah Palin’s attorney general nominee, Wayne Anthony Ross, made offensive comments about women and domestic violence in 1991.
I’ve been looking into it since to see if it is possible to truth-check the allegations made by the letter writer, Leah Burton, who also wrote an anti-Palin book during last fall’s presidential campaign called “TheoPalinism – The Face of Failed Extremism.” In the meantime, Burton’s letter has been published on the popular liberal blog, The Huffington Post, and many others. I understand Burton was on an Anchorage radio show today. State legislators have taken note, saying they’re troubled by the allegation and will question Ross about it.
Ross didn’t return a message I left on his cell. But Palin asked Ross about it today and he told her the claims are ”absolutely false,” said Palin's spokeswoman, Sharon Leighow.
I called Burton today in Washington state, where she now lives. She said she does not have a tape of the comments but made careful notes and kept them, along with other materials from her years lobbying on family and children’s issues in Alaska. Burton said she plans to testify on this tomorrow (Friday) night when the House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on whether to confirm Ross.
(Friday morning update: Palin supporters are now pushing back as a result of the publicity over Burton's letter.)
Here is (full version) of Burton's letter, as submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee:
April 7, 2009
My name is Leah Burton. My father is former Commissioner of Public Safety, Richard L. Burton, who served under both Governor Hammond and Governor Hickel. I grew up in a law enforcement environment. Mr. Ross testimony today in response to Senator Hollis' questions about domestic violence and sexual assault victims enhances my testimony as to his prejudice on this very serious topic, especially given that, "Alaska rates among the top 5 states in the nation for per capita rates of domestic violence." (FBI/UCR 2007)
From 1989 through 1997 I lobbied on behalf of families and children in Alaska with regard to child support, custody, abuse, abandonment and neglect. In the course of that time my efforts put me in conflict with a group known then as the Dads Against Discrimination (DADS), and later renamed the Alaska Family Support Group.
Mr. Ross is one of the most successful attorneys in Alaska in his representation of the members of this organization and others who sought to avoid payment of child support through several means, not the least of which was to fight for custody.
In 1991, the DADS group held an area wide meeting at a Denny's Restaurant in Anchorage near DeBarr & Bragaw. I chose to go and sit in the main area of the restaurant near the opening of the meeting room where they convened so I was able to hear what they had to say and find out what plans they had for the upcoming legislative session.
At that point they still did not know what I looked like so I was able to sit there unnoticed. The meeting was well attended. Steve Strube was the head of the group at that time and another known member, John Grames (who Strube referred to as his Lt.) was also in attendance along with enough other members to fill the room.They were delighted to have Wayne Anthony Ross in attendance as a guest speaker.
Numerous comments were made that were appalling, not the least of which were remarks by Mr. Ross which included the following; "If a guy can't rape his wife...who's he gonna rape?" and "There wouldn't be an issue with domestic violence if women would learn to keep their mouths shut."
Other members made their own contributions such as, "We have the right to discipline our wives and children without the interference of government in our lives!"
These comments were greeted with laughter and affirmative responses by the group. Given the fact that they had referred to me in recent months as a "femi-nazi", the comments I was witness to at this meeting, while abhorrent, were unfortunately not surprising.
This announcement by Governor Palin is a slap in the face to all single parents who have no choice but to rely upon the State Department of Law to support court orders for child support, as well as those persons who need the Department to enforce criminal laws against sexual assault and domestic violence. Mr. Ross is the antithesis of the type of person that should be the Attorney General. This has been clearly demonstrated by his own words and actions in public.
In closing, I am not alone in my assessment that anyone who condones, and contributes to that type of hateful and harmful discourse clearly does not have the judgment necessary to represent the people of the State of Alaska as their Attorney General.
Given his other special interests and his stated opposition to subsistence rights and other Alaska Native issues, I have brought this forth as yet another dimension of Mr. Ross' demonstrated inability to represent all the people of the State of Alaska fairly and impartially.
His clear racial and gender prejudice raise serious concerns with regard to his ability to represent all residents of the State of Alaska fairly and impartially as their Attorney General.