Sarah Palin had at least two private Yahoo accounts and used one for state business. A couple of other employees in the governor's office, Ivy Frye and Frank Bailey, also used private e-mail accounts for state work at times. But it's not clear how widespread the practice has been. Close to 90 people have worked in the governor's office since Palin took office in December 2006, counting those in the Office of Management and Budget and the lieutenant governor's office.
Separate from the Yahoo accounts, Bailey set up another private e-mail system this spring for Palin and some of her insiders. (ADN article "State scrambles to gather private e-mails", October 10, 2008)
In June 2008, Andrée McLeod, a self-described independent government watchdog in Alaska, sent an open records act request to the office of Governor Sarah Palin. She requested copies of all the e-mails that had been sent and received by Ivy Frye and Frank Bailey, two top aides to Palin, from February through April of this year. In response to her request, McLeod received four large boxes of e-mails, but 1,100 were withheld. The Palin administration won't release hundreds of e-mails from her office, claiming they cover confidential policy matters.
Sarah Palin's office claimed most of the undisclosed e-mails were exempt from release because they were covered by the "executive" or "deliberative process" privileges that protect communications between Palin and her aides about policy matters. But the subject lines of some of the withheld e-mails suggest they were not related to policy matters. Several refer to one of Palin's political foes, others to a well-known Alaskan journalist. Moreover, some of the withheld e-mails were CC'ed to Todd Palin, the governor's husband. Todd Palin—a.k.a. the First Dude—holds no official state position (though he has been a close and influential adviser for Governor Palin). The fact that Palin and her aides shared these e-mails with a citizen outside the government undercuts the claim that they must be protected under executive privilege.
The list of confidential e-mails includes a number of communications related to the Public Safety Employees Association, a union for the state's police officers and state troopers. Many of these PSEA-related e-mails were CC'ed to Todd Palin—and were also withheld under the deliberative process and executive privileges.
In September, McLeod filed an appeal.
September 9, 2008, Anchorage, Alaska—Andrée McLeod, a registered Republican and well-known citizen watchdog filed an administrative appeal in which Ms. McLeod requested Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to review the decision to withhold or redact over 1,100 public records in violation of the Alaska Public Records Act. The records document the day-to-day operation of the Governor's Office and members of her administration during Sarah Palin's tenure as governor.
"Keeping government communications secret is not being a 'champion of transparent government' and fails to meet Governor Palin's promises that she established and ran on," McLeod says. "What is Sarah Palin hiding?" (Mother Jones)
Palin had claimed executive privilege for documents copied to her husband, who is not a state employee, in responding to an open records request in June made by Andrée McLeod. The administrative appeal filed by McLeod's attorney, Donald C. Mitchell, argued that by copying Todd Palin on sensitive state correspondence, the governor and her aides shattered the privilege rightly afforded elected officials.
"She has allowed Todd Palin -- who has not been elected by the people of Alaska, who is not a state employee -- to entangle himself apparently as he sees fit in the operations of the executive branch of the state government," Mitchell said.
"From the case law, if government voluntarily opens up that internal decision-making to what I would call civilians, then that is waiver of that protection of the government policy decision-making process. That is what happened here, and it happened because Sarah Palin doesn't understand it," he said.
Todd Palin was frequently copied on e-mails relating to Alaska State Troopers and the union representing public safety employees, according to McLeod, who received four boxes of redacted e-mails in response to her request. At the time, both Sarah and Todd Palin were complaining to the state public safety commissioner about a disciplinary matter involving Sarah Palin's ex-brother-in-law, a state trooper. (Washington Post)
Palin has denounced McLeod's efforts. After McLeod filed the ethics complaint, Sarah Palin told the Anchorage Daily News, "This is the same Andrée McLeod that follows us around at public events and camps herself out in our waiting area and hounds us for a job, asking us if there's a way she can...not have to go through the system to get a job with this administration." Palin also called McLeod "the falafel lady," because McLeod once sold falafel. On his website, Halcro has posted excerpts of e-mails Palin sent McLeod between 2002 and 2005, in which she praised McLeod. In one of these messages, Palin wrote, "You're all about accountability." In another, Palin said, "Thanks for working to instill the public trust." Palin also wrote her, "I'm proud to know you." And in one e-mail, Palin hailed McLeod: "Holy Moly you are powerful regarding getting the word out to the press about questionable activity." (Mother Jones)
I raised the question of Todd Palin's access to Mike Wooten's confidential personnel files in "Sarah Palin's Troopergate questions". It looks like not only was Todd Palin given access to the files, but that there is actual evidence contained in the secret e-mails.
If only David Kernell had political motivation and the presence of mind to publish these e-mails when he hacked into Sarah Palin's Yahoo account...
Mother Jones, Washington Post, Huffington Post.