By Karl Vick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
WASILLA, Alaska, Sept. 30 -- Gov. Sarah Palin maintained a private e-mail account that she used to communicate with a small circle of staff members outside the state government's secure official e-mail system, according to the Wasilla company that established the site.
The account was separate from the Yahoo e-mail address that was abruptly abandoned by the McCain campaign on Sept. 17, the day hackers penetrated the account and posted pages from it on the Internet. Palin had routinely used her Yahoo address for state business.
Quentin Algood, the owner of ITS Alaska, said a discreet e-mail system was created from an old campaign account, with access confined to "a group of people, her closest confidants and co-workers and advisers and the person she sleeps with."
Algood said the system was maintained by Frank Bailey, a Palin aide. Bailey disputed the existence of the private circle of e-mail recipients run through PalinForGovernor.com, the Web site that Algood, a Palin supporter, established free of charge for Palin's 2006 campaign.
"No, no, completely inaccurate," Bailey said in a brief interview last week. "We haven't used that domain in a long time."
A spokeswoman for the McCain-Palin campaign acknowledged the accounts in a statement Tuesday.
"As a champion of government accountability and transparency, Governor Palin was exercising an abundance of caution to ensure that all state and personal business matters were being kept separate," said Meghan Stapleton. "Governor Palin is committed to serving with the highest regard toward ethics."
The existence of additional private e-mail accounts may affect two state probes into whether Palin, her husband and her staff attempted to influence the job status of a state trooper who divorced Palin's sister.
It also raises more questions about Palin's record of commingling the official and personal. The Yahoo inbox posted on the Internet contained family photos, notes from well-wishers and official state correspondence on pending legislation. "She had a number of personal addresses," said John Bitney, a former close aide who was fired by Palin. "I don't know why so many."
ITS technician Ryan Gattis described working with Bailey this spring to set up e-mail addresses linked to the dormant campaign Web site. Gattis said there appeared to be 10 to 15 addresses, chiefly the small circle of aides known in Alaska political circles as "Palinistas" for their fierce loyalty to Palin, with Bailey taking system administrator authority.
"They just wanted an e-mail system that they had control over," Gattis said. He said Bailey also inquired about options for encrypting e-mails but was discouraged by the $1,000 price tag of a commercial encryption product the technician recommended.
"Here is what I will tell you, is that Frank always maintained the e-mail," Algood said. "We did not create or delete or maintain or monitor their e-mail accounts. They're all self-administered mail servers, independent post offices.
"I have registered many domains for Frank and the campaign, and then they are given access to the mail, to the post office for that domain, and they can do with it as they see fit."
Palin placed Bailey on leave in August, when she released a recording of Bailey urging a state official to take action against the trooper formerly married to the governor's sister. Algood indicated that Bailey passed on the order from the McCain campaign to shutter the Palins' accounts the day her Yahoo inbox was posted on the Internet. Gattis said the accounts' contents were backed up in case they needed to be accessed later.
Research editor Alice Crites in Washington contributed to this report.