JUNEAU, Alaska--The state of Alaska on Friday released more than 13,000 e-mails Friday that shed light on Sarah Palin’s tenure as governor — before she became a vice-presidential candidate, a reality-TV star, and an undeclared heavyweight in the 2012 race for the White House.
At 9 a.m. Alaska time — 1 p.m. in Washington — 24,199 pages of printed-out e-mails that Palin either sent or received on her official account became public. The e-mails cover her first 21 months as governor, from December 2006 to September 2008. The remaining 10 months’ worth could be released later.
News organizations first requested the e-mails after Sen. John S. McCain (R-Ariz.) made Palin his surprise choice for a running mate in the 2008 presidential race.
After about a thousand days of delay, they were distributed in a set of five 55-pound boxes, with sensitive information redacted. The copying fees come to $725.97 for each news outlet. The Washington Post will post the e-mails online.
On Friday morning, the boxes containing the e-mail were stacked chest-high in a state office building in Juneau, marked for news organizations like the Post, MSNBC, and the Associated Press. Some had been pre-loaded on dollies, so they could be rushed away quickly for examination.
“The thousands upon thousands of emails released today show a very engaged Governor Sarah Palin being the CEO of her state,” said Tim Crawford, an official at Palin’s political action committee, Sarah PAC. “The e-mails detail a Governor hard at work. Everyone should read them.”
An early read through one of the boxes--from late August 2008, when Palin was chosen by McCain--shows Palin herself replying to good wishes from members of the public.
(Complete Coverage of the release of Sarah Palin’s emails.)
“God has a great plan. God bless you, your family and Senator McCain and his family,” an e-mailer named Tom E. Irwin wrote on Aug. 29, 2008. “This is so needed for our country, great leadership with honesty and integrity.”
Palin wrote back: “You’re awesome and we love you!”
When the documents are read in full, what will they show?
They should provide a detailed portrait of Palin as an executive--how Palin herself wielded power, before she became a professional commenter on how others wield it. They could answer questions, for instance, about how involved her husband, Todd Palin, was involved in state decisions.
“The fact that the spouse of the governor was involved is not unusual,” said Mead Thompson (R), Alaska’s current lieutenant governor. “It’s another ear, and sometimes spouses have better radar for what people are talking about, what’s going on in the public.”
Smaller troves of Palin family e-mails have been made public before. Last year, MSNBC obtained and released 1,200 sent and received by Todd Palin. Just this month, former Palin aide Frank Bailey released a tell-all book about his old boss entitled: “Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin.”
“I think every rock in the Palin household that could ever be kicked over and uncovered anything, it’s already been kicked over,” Palin herself told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” last weekend. (Palin’s emails: What to expect)
However, she added some caveats. “A lot of those e-mails obviously weren’t meant for public consumption,” she said, and people who read them will “never truly know what the context of each one of the e-mails was.”
State officials said they had reviewed more than 14,000 e-mails, and held back 953 of them because of state records rules. Another 2,373 will be released with some information redacted.(PHOTOS: Sarah Palin’s bus tour)
Sharon Leighow, a spokeswoman for Alaska’s current governor, said that the state struggled to cope with nearly 600 records requests from various news organizations. She said that the state to contract with a private law firm for help with this batch of e-mails.
“The sheer volume has been overwhelming,” said Leighow, who previously worked the state government under the Palin administration for Palin. “We followed the process, and we followed the law.”
Palin conducted some of her state business on a private Yahoo account, and not all of those e-mails are included in the release. E-mails between that account and state accounts are included, but those between two private accounts are not. (VIDEO: The relase of Palin’s emails.)
The release has brought news reporters swarming to Juneau--a small state capital surrounded by mountain peaks, and often reached by ship or plane.
In the capital city, as in the rest of the country, Palin’s name can elicit strong and contradictory emotions.
Scott Arthur, 62, a driver for Glacier Taxi & Tour, said the criticism of Palin is unnecessary and that the attention being paid to her e-mails is unfair.
“Sarah Palin’s okay. She’s got big ideas. I can’t blame her for wanting to make a name for herself, or more money,” he said.
Sharon Peters, 49, dislikes Palin as a politician. “She did get in over her head,” she said, adding that many longtime Alaskans “are ashamed of her” performance as governor.
But she believes that the focus on her e-mails is intrusive.
“I think they should leave her alone,” said Peters, an insurance agent. “She’s still a person.”
Heather Lende, a writer and columnist who lives in a town north of Juneau, applauded the release of Palin’s e-mails. But she said that many Alaskans marvel at the fact that so many people across the country still care about her.
“It’s phenomenal she’s getting some much attention. It’s strange. She’s a celebrity and we don’t know how that happened,” Lende said. “She wasn’t governor really long enough to have any kind of legacy or make any changes.”
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Fahrenthold reported from Washington.