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E-mails show 'First Dude's' influence in Palin administration

February 05, 2010|by Lori Tipton
  • When the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner wrote an editorial critical of former Gov. Sarah Palin, her husband Todd demanded in an e-mail that she keep the paper from receiving press releases. (File/KTUU-DT)
When the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner wrote an editorial critical of former Gov. Sarah Palin, her husband Todd demanded in an e-mail that she keep the paper from receiving press releases. (File/KTUU-DT)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — In response to a public records request, the state has released thousands of e-mails involving the role former Gov. Sarah Palin's husband, "First Dude" Todd Palin, played in her administration.

During Palin's term, some in Juneau referred to Todd as the "shadow governor." Throughout her stint as governor, Palin's spouse was active in state business -- but the e-mails show just how much influence he had on policy in the Palin administration.

Nearly 3,000 pages of e-mails involving Todd Palin were recently released by the state, in response to a September 2008 public records request by NBC News and MSNBC. State law specifies that staff should respond to requests within 10 days, but because there were thousands of messages to go through, the state took much longer.

E-mails were exchanged between Todd Palin and state officials covering countless areas of state government and politics. They reveal that he was involved with a judicial appointment, and he monitored contract negotiations with public employee unions.

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When the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner wrote a critical editorial about the governor, Todd sent his wife an e-mail demanding that the governor's communications director, Meghan Stapleton, "take the news miner off the press release address list for a few days, see how long it takes them to realize their not on the list."

Some who served in the Palin administration would not discuss the e-mails, but former public safety commissioner Walt Monegan confirmed that Todd would occasionally attend Cabinet meetings -- and that the governor would carbon-copy her husband on the e-mails she sent to Monegan.

Stapleton, the Palin family's spokesperson, declined to be interviewed. But Sarah Palin's attorney, Thomas Van Flein, issued a statement saying Todd Palin had official and unofficial duties.

"Todd Palin was, and remains, a close advisor to the governor," Van Flein said. "Those in the administration knew this, and the public knew this. There is nothing unusual, untoward or inappropriate for a spouse of a chief executive to provide guidance, input and hands on assistance."

Van Flein also noted that Todd Palin had no designated office, received no pay, and had no staff. But the e-mails show that he was still a decision-maker for the state during his stint as "First Dude."

Crivella West, a company based out of Pittsburgh, scanned all the e-mails released to NBC and has set up a public archive online.

State legislators have introduced bills that would tighten public records law, but they are stalled at the moment. A broader request by MSNBC and other news organizations for about 25,000 e-mails sent and received by the governor and roughly 50 top officials is still pending.

Contact Lori Tipton at ltipton@ktuu.com

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