After a years-long delay, the state of Alaska released 24,000 pages of email correspondence from former Gov. Sarah Palin’s time in office on Friday. The partially redacted printouts, which were first requested nearly three years ago, are now being digitized and will be available online in a indexed and searchable database.
Six boxes of documents were handed over by officials to representatives from media organisations who had sought access to the documents when Mrs Palin was catapulted to fame as Senator John McCain’s vice-presidential nominee in late August 2008.
The stash included emails from Palin’s official gubernatorial account as well as two private Yahoo accounts she used to conduct state business, a practice that critics said circumvented Alaska’s open-records law. Dozens of reporters have descended on the state capital Juneau to get the earliest access to the documents.
In addition, Palin and her aides were known to use private email accounts, possibly to avoid some messages becoming public. The Associated Press 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,” but it’s not clear what information from the private accounts, if any, will be included in the release.
The New York Times and Washington Post are planning to scan and post the emails on their websites, and are asking readers to comment on the contents. The MSNBC cable TV network is working with data research firm Crivella West to produce a searchable database online, which is expected to be completed by late on Friday.
Mother Jones made the first request, in September 2008, for emails sent and received by Sarah Palin during her role as governor of Alaska in September 2011. The final online database will be available soon, but meanwhile, news agencies are working on placing them online.
About 2,400 pages are being withheld because state attorneys have deemed them to contain privileged information. The emails that are being released will also be redacted to keep private information confidential. The emails date from when Mrs Palin, 46, took over as governor in early 2007 to September 1, 2008.
At the time she was the subject of a legislative probe into accusations that she abused her power as governor to seek revenge against a state trooper who had been married to her sister. Some critics say the emails will show that the former governor exhibited a pattern of using state resources for personal gain, the settling of scores with perceived enemies and unprofessional conduct in general.
“She was just flying by the seat of her pants,” said Andree McLeod, a one-time Palin supporter who filed the first information request. The Palin administration and that of her successor, current Governor Sean Parnell, also a Republican, have argued that the records request overwhelmed state resources.
Although Alaska’s open-records law mandates a ten-day deadline for delivery of public documents when requested, the Palin and Parnell administrations received numerous extensions from state attorneys. About 3,000 of Mrs Palin’s husband Todd’s emails were released last year after a request by NBC, and showed that he had been a powerful figure behind the throne.
On Sunday, Palin told Fox News, where she is a paid contributor, that the email release was not a problem for her, since her tenure had already been thoroughly examined. She added, however, that “a lot of those emails obviously weren’t meant for public consumption” and warned that some could be taken out of context.
Palin’s political action committee welcomed the release. “The thousands upon thousands of emails released today show a very engaged Gov. Sarah Palin being the CEO of her state,” said SarahPAC treasurer Tim Crawford. “The emails detail a governor hard at work. Everyone should read them.”
Among the controversies that could be potentially reignited thanks to the email release are the “Troopergate” saga concerning alleged pressure from the Palin family to fire a state trooper and Palin’s role in the now infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” a proposed bridge to the rural outpost of Ketchikan, Alaska that was never built. [via The Telegraph (UK), NY Times and Mashable]