Friday, February 05, 2010

E-Mails Show Todd Palin Was "Shadow Governor" In Sarah Palin's Administration, But MSNBC's Motives Also Under Scrutiny

Will the real Governor of Alaska please stand up?

The Anchorage Daily News has picked up on the story from MSNBC about excerpts of a series of e-mails received by MSNBC which seem to indicate that Todd Palin was more than just a "First Dude", instead indicating he could be considered to have been a fully-blown "Shadow Governor" in Sarah Palin's administration. This comes hard on the heels of another controversial story about two of the Palins' remote Alaskan cabins not being included on property tax assessments, although the land beneath was taxed (the issue in dispute is whether or not the Palins had an obligation to inform the borough of the existence of the cabins, so the borough could UPDATE its assessments). But MSNBC's motives in pursuing and releasing this information, to include the timing of the release, are being called into question as well.

The e-mails have been organized into a collection by Crivella West and can be accessed at the following link:

According to MSNBC, the 1,200 separate e-mails covering 3,000 pages released this week "draw a picture of a Palin administration where the governor's husband got involved in a judicial appointment, monitored contract negotiations with public employee unions, received background checks on a corporate CEO, added his approval or disapproval to state board appointments and passed financial information marked "confidential" from his oil company employer to a state attorney". The subject lines of those e-mails provide a snapshot of how the Palins divvied up their responsibilities when she became governor in December 2006, less than two years before Republican Sen. John McCain pulled her onto the national political stage by nominating her as his vice presidential candidate.

In addition, 243 other e-mails were withheld by the state under a claim that executive privilege extends to Todd Palin as an unpaid adviser to the government. The court-upheld goal of the policy to allow government officials to make well-informed decisions without being impeded by making public every possible course of action discussed. Serial ethics complainer Andrée McLeod has filed a lawsuit against the state on this issue. In it, she argues that if one private citizen in the state of Alaska can be privy to all these e-mails about the workings of state government, then the state has waived the privilege. But Palin's chief of staff, Michael Nizich, rejected that argument in a denial letter to McLeod's attorney. Nizich said that Todd Palin was not a third-party outsider, but an insider, "an invited advisor and participant in the actual decision-making protected by the privilege." Thus we see a dispute in the interpretation of the First Dude's role; while McLeod is a strict constructionist, Sarah Palin tended to take a broader view.

The Palin camp has responded to this story. Palin attorney Tom Van Flein said in an e-mail Friday to NBC News that Todd Palin's role as an "active advisor" to his wife should come as no surprise "to most Alaskans, and to the millions of people who read "Going Rogue", Palin's autobiography. "Like many married couples, including political 'power couples,' it is common for a spouse to play the role of key advisor to the other spouse," he wrote. "The Palins were no different. Todd Palin had official and unofficial duties, but one thing was clear: he was a key advisor to Governor Palin and involved in her efforts to improve the State of Alaska." Van Flein's full statement is available HERE.

This, of course, is a legitimate explanation - except MSNBC also reports that the governor often wasn't included on Todd Palin's e-mails at all. Some indicate direct contact between Todd and the staff. This raises the question as to whether Todd Palin may have made decisions involving state government without involving Sarah Palin, and which should have involved Sarah Palin. Obviously one cannot expect a wall of separation to exist between a Governor and her spouse, but there's a difference between using the spouse as a "sounding board" vs. using him as a surrogate.

Public reaction, as posted to the ADN story, is predominantly negative. But some are questioning MSNBC's timing of the story, considering that Sarah Palin is preparing to address this weekend's Tea Party Convention in Nashville. The contempt the establishment elite has for the tea party crowd is virulent and undisguised; I wouldn't put it past MSNBC to deliberately air this report just before the convention to inflict political damage upon it. Don't forget, MSNBC is infested with Obamaholics who get a thrill going up their leg when they see Obama.

Another manifestation of MSNBC's clear-cut pattern of bias against Sarah Palin is reported by the Media Research Center, which states that MSNBC continues to try to link conservatives with those who are called "birthers", meaning those who question whether Barack Obama can prove he is a born citizen of the United States. In one clip, they show Sarah Palin in that infamous "turkey shot". So with that in mind, while we may be able to trust MSNBC's facts about Todd Palin, can we trust their motives - and their interpretation of those facts? It is likely that MSNBC may be blowing the e-mail story out of proportion because of their thinly-disguised hatred for conservatives and their desire to goose their ratings.

In the final analysis, these e-mails do not reveal any endemic "corruption" about the Palin Administration. Instead, they reveal a governor who sometimes had a blurred vision of proper roles and ethics. For all the hubbub, the Branchflower investigation of Troopergate only returned one finding of "abuse of power". The same analogy applies in this case. But the wisdom of Sarah Palin's decision to resign is once again made manifest, for if she had continued in office, the revelation of these e-mails would have been used by her political enemies to further cripple her administration.

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