Palin e-mail trove shows ethics effort

Posted: Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Internal e-mails released from the Sarah Palin administration show that the former governor was demanding tougher ethical standards for Alaska behind the scenes, and that she was highly critical of lawmakers who questioned her. investigative reporter Bill Dedman recently obtained more than 1,200 emails while investigating the role Todd Palin played in his wife's administration.

The state took 18 months to comply with the public records request, a process that took so long that not only was the election over, but Palin had also left the governorship.

After the state described a slow, expensive and cumbersome process for making the documents public under the Alaska Public Records Law, information management firm Crivella West offered its services.

The extensive list of e-mails made public have been scanned from paper, converted to digital with optical character recognition and posted on a searchable Web site. Another 243 were withheld.

The e-mails show exchanges between Palin, supporters and administration officials prior to her run for national office.

Among those criticized by Palin was then-House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez, after he was quoted in a Juneau Empire story. Harris questioned the Palin administration's quest for even more ethics rules.

"I don't know what the hell they've been smoking if they want to do more ethics reform," Harris said at the time. He said the Palin administration should instead focus on substantive issues dealing with the economy.

Palin was enjoying the height of her popularity in Alaska at the time, and had just pushed through measures to strengthen the Executive Branch Ethics act.

In an e-mail to other staffers, Palin first commented "Sheeeeesh, Harris is saying some very foolish things in there," later calling it "the most stupid comment I've heard all year."

She next said Harris' statement reflected a lack of interest in improving ethics practices.

"Nice talk, Mr. Speaker. Reflects well on your commitment to ethical leadership," she said sarcastically in an e-mail to inner circle aides Ivy Frye, Frank Bailey and Kris Perry.

Harris said Friday that he has since moved on.

"I want to forget that Sarah Palin ever existed," he said. "We have a governor who wants to work with us, Sarah Palin is off making money -- let her be."

Paul Fuhs, a lobbyist and occasional adviser to Palin since before she was elected governor, once suggested a counterattack against "VECO types." VECO and its allies had opposed Palin's natural gas pipeline plans. Later, VECO CEO Bill Allen pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges.

"All of this ties into the corruption of our state by VECO, and they still continue it through their phony editorial page in the anch daily news," Fuhs wrote in an e-mail to Palin and her staff.

That page, paid for by VECO, is no longer published. VECO itself has been sold to new owners.

Ironically, Palin's final year in office was plagued accusations that she too had violated state ethics laws by attempting to retaliate against her former brother-in-law.

Palin cited the so-called "Troopergate" investigation and other ethics charges brought against her one of the reasons she resigned from office in July of 2009.

Weblink: Look for "Public Access Collections" and click on "Palin E-mail" to see copies of the e-mails mentioned in this story.

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