Did Huckabee help his son avoid prosecution for animal cruelty?

That's the questioned examined by an article in the latest issue of Newsweek, which reports on allegations that the former Arkansas governor's son David was involved in the hanging death of a stray dog at a Boy Scout camp in 1998. The younger Huckabee, who was 17 at the time, was fired from his job as a camp counselor over the incident but never faced a criminal investigation.

John Bailey, then the director of the Arkansas state police, tells the magazine that the governor's chief of staff and personal lawyer pressured him to write a letter denying a local prosecutor's request for help in determining whether any animal cruelty laws were broken:

Bailey, a career officer who had been appointed chief by Huckabee's Democratic predecessor, said he viewed the lawyer's intervention as improper and terminated the conversation. Seven months later, he was called into Huckabee's office and fired. "I've lost confidence in your ability to do your job," Bailey says Huckabee told him. One reason Huckabee cited was "I couldn't get you to help me with my son when I had that problem," according to Bailey. "Without question, [Huckabee] was making a conscious attempt to keep the state police from investigating his son," says I. C. Smith, the former FBI chief in Little Rock, who worked closely with Bailey and called him a "courageous" and "very solid" professional.

Huckabee says Bailey's account is "totally untrue" and describes him as a "bitter" ex-employee who he asked to resign because he had alienated the state police. Brenda Turner, Huckabee's chief of staff at the time, and Kevin Crass, the family attorney, also deny Bailey's account -- though both acknowledge talking to him about the dog killing. In Arkansas animal cruelty is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and a year in prison.

But as Salon reports, Huckabee is hardly the only GOP frontrunner with "puppy skeletons" in his closet: Rudy Giuliani's wife, Judith, previously worked for U.S. Surgical Corp. selling medical staplers to doctors by demonstrating the devices on live, anesthetized dogs. And in the early 1980s, Mitt Romney took his family on a 12-hour drive to vacation in Canada -- with their Irish setter in a crate strapped to the car's roof. That's a likely violation of Massachusetts animal cruelty laws.