The Washington Post

Background: Sarah Palin’s family

In advance of the release of thousands of e-mails from Sarah Palin’s time as governor, we take a look at some of the issues that marked her tenure.

The spotlight on Sarah Palin has often extended to her family, whose constant presence at her side during her vice presidential campaign reinforced her family-oriented image but also provided fodder for tabloids and investigative journalists.

Todd Palin — an oilfield operator and snowmobile racer who was known in Alaska as the “first dude” while his wife was governor — was unusually involved in official affairs for a governor’s spouse, records show.

Last year, the state of Alaska released about 3,000 pages of e-mails that showed he was kept in the loop and often chimed in on a variety of governmental issues, including a judicial appointment and union contract negotiations. Sarah Palin has said her husband’s involvement was appropriate because he is a trusted adviser.

The documents also shed light on the complicated logistics the Palins faced in raising five children, their lives divided between their home in Wasilla and the state capital, Juneau, some 600 miles away.

Some of her family dramas played out publicly during the 2008 campaign.

The couple’s youngest son, Trig, was born just months before Palin was tapped as John McCain’s running mate. That Palin carried Trig to term knowing he would be born with Down syndrome made her a hero to abortion foes and advocates for children with special needs.

Shortly after entering the race, the Palins disclosed that their teenage daughter, Bristol, was pregnant with her boyfriend’s child.

Bristol later broke off her engagement with Levi Johnston, who basked in his celebrity status by posing nude for a magazine and writing a tell-all book. Bristol has also gravitated toward the spotlight, competing on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” and becoming an advocate for teen abstinence. She is slated to star in an upcoming reality show.

Sandhya Somashekhar is the social change reporter for the Washington Post.

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