JUNEAU, Alaska — The nation is about to get a new look at Sarah Palin’s tenure as Alaska governor.
The state on Friday is scheduled to release more than 24,000 pages of Palin’s emails from her first two years as governor, providing a fresh glimpse into how she led the state as she rose to become a player on the national political stage.
The emails were first requested during the 2008 White House race by citizens and news organizations, including The Associated Press, as they vetted a vice presidential nominee whose political experience included less than one term as governor of Alaska and a term as mayor of the small town of Wasilla. The nearly three-year delay has been attributed largely to the sheer volume of the release and the flood of requests.
Alaska is releasing the thousands of emails in paper form only and asking news organizations to pick up several boxes worth of documents in Alaska’s capital city, accessible by only air or water. Reporters from several news organizations have already begun arriving in Juneau and are making various plans to disseminate the emails to the public.
Palin told Fox News Sunday that she was unfazed by the release of emails, saying there are no more rocks that could be turned over about her life or time as governor. But she also said “a lot of those emails obviously weren’t meant for public consumption” and that she expected people might seek to take some of the messages “out of context.”
There may not be any surprises to Palin in the emails, however. Once the state reviewed the records, it gave Palin’s attorneys an opportunity to see if they had any privacy concerns with what was being released. No emails were withheld or redacted as a result of that, said Linda Perez, the administrative director for Gov. Sean Parnell who has been coordinating the release.
The voluminous nature of the release, the isolation of Juneau and the limited bandwidth in the city of 30,000 people has forced media outlets to come up with creative ways to transmit the information. The Washington Post is looking for “100 organized and diligent readers” to work with reporters to “analyze, contextualize, and research the e-mails.” The New York Times is employing a similar system.
Mother Jones, ProPublica and msnbc.com are working with Crivella West Inc., to create a searchable database of the emails. The Associated Press also plans to scan the paper copies to make searchable files available to its members and clients. The state said it was not practical to provide electronic versions of the emails.
It’s not clear yet whether the 24,199 pages being released will contain any major revelations. They will cover the period from the time she took office in December 2006 to her ascension to vice presidential nominee in September 2008. Requests have been made for emails from her final 10 months in office. The state hasn’t begun the process of reviewing those yet. Palin resigned partway through her term, in July 2009.
Prior records requests have shed light on the Palin administration’s efforts to advance a natural gas pipeline project and the role played by Palin’s husband in state business.
The email release adds another dimension to the vetting of Palin that began in 2008 and comes as she has become a prominent national political figure, attracting large crowds during a recent bus tour across the Northeast. Palin’s attorney referred questions about the emails to the treasurer of her political action committee, who did not immediately respond Thursday.
The emails were sent and received by Palin’s personal and state email accounts, and the ones being released were deemed to be related to state business.
She and top aides were known to communicate using private email accounts. Perez said Palin gave the state a CD with emails from her Yahoo account, and other employees were asked to review their private accounts for emails related to state business and to send those to their state accounts.
Another 2,275 pages are being withheld for reasons including attorney-client, work product or executive privilege; an additional 140 pages were deemed to be “non-records,” or unrelated to state business.
Some emails may have been previously reviewed in other, earlier public records requests, such as in the Troopergate investigation, in which Palin was accused of putting pressure on public safety officials to fire her brother-in-law, an Alaska State Trooper who was going through a bitter divorce from Palin’s sister.
Clive Thomas, a long-time Palin observer who’s writing a book on Alaska politics, said he’s not sure what the emails will contain – or whether their contents will affect people’s perceptions of Palin.
“I guess most people, I think, who don’t like Sarah Palin are hoping there’s something in there that will deliver the final sort of blow to her (politically),” he said. As for Palin’s supporters, he said he doesn’t think their opinion of her will be changed regardless of what comes out.