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A Reader’s Guide to the (Still Coming) Sarah Palin Emails

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Former U.S. vice presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin walks past members of the media while arriving at Trump Tower in New York on May 31, 2011. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Before Sarah Palin became a political pundit, reality TV star and household name, she did a whole lot of things in Alaska that raised eyebrows once she became a vice presidential nominee. Reporters began exploring some of those things at the time and filing public records requests to more fully explore her record.

Now, three years later, and after much wrangling with the State of Alaska, we’re finally getting 24,199 pages of emails from Sarah Palin’s time as governor. They’re going to be released—on paper—this afternoon. 

Here's some quick background on the emails and suggestions on what to look for. We’re also going to be updating this post, highlighting interesting nuggets, if any, that people come across.

So… where are these emails from?
The emails are from the beginning of 2007 to September 2008. That covers most—but not all—of Palin’s tenure, which was from December 2006 to when she resigned in mid-2009.

ProPublica filed a public records request for the emails in fall 2008 and teamed up with Mother Jones and msnbc.com when we realized they had done the same. The state ultimately got enough requests that it lumped all of them together, and after many deadline extensions—Alaska state agencies are supposed to get 10 days to fulfill a request, but they can request extensions—it’s releasing the documents today.

Why are they only being released now?
For starters, Sarah Palin didn’t abide by transparency best-practices.

She used a number of private email accounts to conduct state business, complicating the process of sorting out which emails were truly private and which should be a matter of public record. (After the fact, in 2009, the State of Alaska announced a new email policy for executive branch employees: “State business must be conducted through the state email system whenever feasible. In instances where private emails are used, employees must send copies of emails to their state account.”)

Then there was the matter of cost. Alaska at one point quoted prices as high as $15 million for some of the emails. The price for the emails being released today ended up being $725 per news organization.

And, of course, there was lots of lawyering that had to be done, and the state decided to withhold some documents and redact others. According to the state of Alaska, that’s why the emails are now on paper. The state said it didn’t have the technology to redact the emails electronically.  

Wait, they’re on paper?
Yes. The emails, which presumably could fit on a few discs, now fit in six boxes and weigh 250 pounds per set. Journalists have trekked to Juneau to pick up them up. (Mother Jones notes that the state is helpfully lending journalists “hand trucks” for hauling the boxes out.)

Alaska’s decision to provide only paper copies has been puzzling. While nothing in the state’s public records law requires the state to provide records in electronic form, public agencies are “encouraged” to “make information available in usable electronic formats to the greatest extent feasible.” Though government agencies have fumbled on redactions in the past, software certainly exists to safely redact electronic data. (We do it all the time.)

Various news agencies have joined the scramble to sift through the documents and restore them to an electronic format. The Anchorage Daily News, ABC News, New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, Bloomberg News, CNN, CBS, Los Angeles Times and Associated Press have all jumped onboard with varying plans to scan and upload the documents for public consumption.

Also, Mother Jones and msnbc.com have teamed up with us to put up a full searchable archive quickly. (It’s using a service provided free of cost called Crivella West.)  

What should we expect to find in them?
We’re not sure. Among the unknowns are how extensive the redactions will be. (Update: Here's a list of them.)

But here are some suggestions on what to look for. You may recall that as governor Palin was involved in a number of controversies that emerged after she was picked as John McCain’s running mate.

In what became known as “Troopergate,” Palin and her husband were accused of personally pressuring a state employee to fire a state trooper who went through an ugly divorce and child-custody battle with her sister. When he refused, he himself was fired. Palin has denied that she pressured anyone. (Here’s the background.) Look for more on this, or on anything she wrote about the Alaska legislature’s investigation into it.

Palin was also caught in a contradiction on a famed “Bridge to Nowhere” construction project. She campaigned for the governorship in favor of it, but as a vice presidential nominee touted her role in killing it. “Thanks, but no thanks” was how she characterized her response to Congress in regard to using federally earmarked funds on the bridge.

The project never really died, either—at least not in its entirety. As we reported at the time, Palin’s administration continued to pursue a road to nowhere—originally intended to be connected to the bridge—with the help of as much as $73 million in federal earmarked funds. Look for whether the emails say anything about that.

The emails also overlap briefly with her time as a Republican vice presidential nominee. Chances are slim, but they could be interesting if there’s information about the presidential campaign or observations to be made about emails sent in the run-up to her selection as McCain’s running mate.

Can I look through the emails too? And how should I share what I find? 
Sure. A lot of news organizations are going to be putting bits and pieces of the emails online as the day goes on and even into the weekend.

As we’ve mentioned, we’re partners on an effort to post a full searchable archive So, check back, or stay tuned to our Twitter feed for when that happens. Many others will be posting the emails too.

The New York Times, Mother Jones and others have live updates going as they rifle through the documents. If there are items of interest, we’ll also be pulling together what people have found, so follow along and share what you find using the hashtag #palinemail on Twitter, or by leaving it in the comments below.

If nothing else, the emails are sure to make some pretty good fodder for the ProPublica Tumblr, so follow there too if you like.

Irwin B. Platzner

June 10, 2011, 12:06 p.m.

This should be interesting!!!

Read and report, for humankind’s sake- Let’s give Fox news something to talk about.

i sense some AWESOME coming out way. #Palinized!

Fascinating that you didn’t put 1/1000th this much effort into vetting Obama running for the Big Job.  You are political HACKS.

When do we sift through Obama’s Illinios Congressman/Senator emails?

Can’t wait!

awwww, poor wittle Free Man. you right-wing babies are ALWAYS the victims, aren’t you? why can’t you face the fact that Palin is a corrupt, dishonest, STUPID quitter governor with no ethics? Obama has been vetted so thoroughly that it’s ridiculous, but to your obvious disappointment, he’s essentially scandal and crime free. Unlike Palin.

I love to see the press fall over themselves in the name of “transparency” to publish emails from a now private citizen but couldn’t be bothered to file so much as one FOIA request with the state of Illinois to get a peek at Obama’s state senate records or his house purchase with Tony Rezko. 

You really have your priorities in order.

I noticed a private phone call mentioned in two of the emails between Sarah and Vice President Cheney talking about energy issues from 11/10/09. A significant part of the emails were redacted.

Are they getting the Header information as well?  That’s were some of the real juice comes from in the state resources versus private resources debate.

Yet when the same request was made of Obama’s emails while he was a junior senator of Illinois the request was denied even though they are public records just like Palin’s emails are. I guess the left wing media wouldn’t want it to come out that Obama and Rod Blagojevich are good friend and share a few ‘common interest’.

Innocent Bystander

June 10, 2011, 2:50 p.m.

Are there any checks and balances in place for the redacting process ?

From: Sarah Palin [mailto:gov.sarah@yahoo.com]
Sent: Sunday, March 18, 2007 1:27 PM
To: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); Kristina Y Perry; .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address);
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Subject : transition reports
JB and Mike, et al:
Still not quite sure what the issue is that the Juneau Empire covered today with the “Transition
Reports Being Held From the Public”-gist article (Perm Fund Division issue from back in
July?)... but the gist of the article is so disappointing because it’s 180-degrees from where I want
to be with information deserving to be seen by the public. (Sen. Dyson was mentioned in this
article, so John - please let Dyson know I was not (and will not be) purposefully withholding any
information. Please let me know when you’ve contacted Dyson on this issue for me so I don’t
duplicate the effort.)
Meg - if there’s something you can do to help un-do the records withholding issue that at least
three reporters are sort of up-in-arms about, please do so.
I campaigned on open and transparent government - I don’t know why the issue covered in the
article today was ever NOT made public… it’s not a mistake that was made on our watch, so why
try to hide it anyway?
Please let me know where you guys are going with this to help correct the mistake that was made
in not releasing this part of a transition report. Look forward to knowing what we’re doing to undo it, thanks!

How intelligent do you expect emails to be from a woman who changed colleges 6 times and whose values and committments change with the dollar sign attached to them. Miss Palin has a bling alligance to the buck.

acmodspecialists

June 10, 2011, 4:18 p.m.

15 million unemployed, more than 5 millions foreclosures, 45 million uninsured, $1.204,929,111,000 cost of wars Iraq, Afghanistan (not including Libya) War against workers in America, pensions lost, 401K lost, personal credits smashed, Ponzi Schemes by Financial Systems and Wall street , and Sara Palin is the news??????? WHO CARES !

Larry Crawford

June 10, 2011, 4:28 p.m.

What an incredible waste of time. Anyone that is obsessed with Palin’s activities is clueless.

acmodspecialists…kudos to you.

Propublica: If you exist just to fan the extremism of either party, you are not serving the Public.

The other day I read some un-noteworthy piece on you site speaking of the Federal Reserve as though it were some kind of benevolent entity bent on improving things for the public…

Sheesh…a few more articles perpetuating smoke screens and you won’t miss me!

We know our president had some pretty interesting dealings with disgraced former gov. Rod Blagojevich about the senate seat Obama vacated when he won the presidency. The feds wiretaped Blago complaining about Obama pushing his own candidate for the job.
The senate seat Blago is under indictment for trying to sell. Another former close Obama crony Tony Rezko, has gotten into trouble for financial misdealings.

I guess these investigative journos plan to seek Obama’s emails just as soon as they get to the bottom of whether Palin said mean things about her former brother-in-law.

Glad to see they have their priorities straight.

a)  The comments make it obvious that “the right” has a dedicated web crawler that does nothing but search for articles which might threaten their ability to support the illusion that the right is morally or ethically capable of leading America

b)  “Alaska’s decision to provide only paper copies has been puzzling.”  Not puzzling, when you consider that providing paper copies allows you to add human error and mechanical failure to computer issues as the reason something…interesting…didn’t get released.  I.e., now the printer may have jammed or run out of toner/ink or somebody didn’t hit “print” at the right time. “C’mon…there were thousands of them!  What is a dozen or two missing compared to that?  And the fact that the missing ones all involved the energy industry…coincidence!”.

c)  Given that this was a “reader’s guide” to analyzing something Palin, shouldn’t the article have lead out with “First, mix a pitcher of Daiquiris…”???

Making an effort to get this imbecile’s email   indicates that pro publica must be rolling in cash. Any reporting on this person should be left to entertainment news.Palin is as relevant to America as Lindsey Lohan.She is the Paris Hilton of American politics.

a.bron - You’re forgetting that the search for these emails began when she was a Governor under growing clouds and a GOP nominee for Vice President of the United States.

Jason Bronson

June 10, 2011, 7:45 p.m.

I’m a leftist because that means I’m smart. All Republicans are stupid. It’s true.  I read it in the New York Times.

You got what you wanted, so stop whining that it wasn’t delivered in a manner to your liking. After you get through digging, I, like others, suggest you file an FOIA on Obama.

I’m actually really beginning to like Palin.

I find it very distasteful and offensive when the press focuses on every misstatement of fact and gaff that this woman makes. She is clearly ignorant and not a very bright person. This kind of “gotcha” journalism is tantamount to a bully making fun of a retarded kid in the schoolyard.

Jason Bronson emoted Today, 8:45 p.m.:“All Republicans are stupid.”

I would disagree…the more powerful Republicans tend to be intelligent; however, their intelligence isn’t moderated by conscience.

Pailin? Again? 2 years after she left office. WTF…....The world’s a mess and I’m reading and looking for relevant journalism. You know, the 4th Estate kind of stuff.  Wow, I’m an idiot. I’m done with ProPublica. Off their email list and won’t be back! Peace….........

This woman is not a declared candidate.  This is of little importance compared to so many other issues.  It’s something a gossip rag would waste time on. Until she is actually running for another public office, there have got to be more serious problems for professionals to devote their time and limited resources on. With multiple scandals among dishonest Wall Street CEOs, doctors in cozy relationships with device manufacturers and serving politicians offering up raunchy behavior, why is every media outlet so absorbed in exposing this woman, already so accomplished in drawing attention to herself she outshines hardworking, announced candidates?

To those who state that Palin - and by extension, her emails - are no longer relevant: 

I would suggest to you that everything the American people learn about the intertwined relationship between the right, Big Oil, and the rest of Corporate America is relevant not just to the past but to the future.

The repercussions of what the right - even to include Palin - does are not always immediately apparent; I give you, for example, the right’s blocking of all attempts to wean ourselves from oil in the 1970s and 1980s, which lead us into multiple wars in the Middle East and significant loss of American lives years and years down the road…and to this day.

Or the impact of “flood-up/trickle-down” economics, which seemed fairly innocent to so very many Americans at the time…or the impact of inequitable free trade…or deregulation…each and every one of which has resulted in massive harm to the American people and so our country.

You have to look at everything you learn about and from the right - to include Palin - as the threads in a massive tapestry of deception.  Anything that the right does that you choose to turn your back on today can - and likely will - cause you or your children harm tomorrow.

In a phrase, forewarned is forearmed.

This really isn’t worthy of you folks.  At least, until or unless she announces her candidacy.  Until then, you are just contributing to the degradation and trivialization of media coverage that you were established to avoid.

This is like that old joke: a Whitehouse intern asked if he could dispose of some boxes of old records in the basement. He was told, sure, just make copies of everything first!

Richard Davis

June 11, 2011, 9:08 a.m.

The relevance of this information, to those of you complaining about it, was a valid issue at the time the original request via FOI was made. The fact that it took so long to get the emails due to extension filings, and that the total cost to do so was so low even with all the foot dragging, would be an interesting story itself.

I’d be more interested in finding out who in the Alaskan government did the redacting, and what the criteria was for doing so.

Larry Crawford

June 11, 2011, 9:32 a.m.

Obviously, some people really care about these emails or the acquisition thereof.

Personally, I think that the country is in very bad shape, corrupt, now or then and getting worse. To me it is about priority of attention and right or left, both would better serve the country by focusing on the dominant issues and causes…not sideshow attactions of *relative* insignificance.

I have complained too much about this already :-)

Yes, that is my name.. and to Mike H and nobama… all of the President’s e-mails were released.  Y’ all (I’m from the South) hate intelligent discourse, which is why y’all keep pounding away on whether or not Hawaii is a state.. duh..

The President fulfilled all of the terms of offices to which he was elected.. unlike the “tweetertart” who bailed when money was waved in her face.  PS..her stylist needs to change her look up.. after all, she had lasik vision surgery and everyone knows it.  Nothing can make her look or sound intelligent as she lacks the ability to think critically.

In the few months that Mrs. Palin held the governor’s office, many state government decisions seem to have been made by her spouse, “First Thug” Todd. Where are his emails?

James B Storer

June 11, 2011, 11:19 a.m.

Ibsteve2u (post 1:05 AM 6 Jun), I am in agreement with your words: “forewarned is forearmed” and “You have to look at everything you learn about and from the right - to include Palin.”
It puzzles me that ProPublica gives this woman so much attention at this time.  The subject was relevant, however, at the time the investigation began.  If she manages to squirm her way into a candidacy I then will read the report.  I understand the investment ProPublica puts into this and other investigation, but I feel she is not worth the ink at this particular time.  Future ProPublica reports may “flesh out” the story.
The Republican Party is a vast propaganda machine, and sticks tenaciously to the propaganda tenet:  “Repeat…repeat…repeat…repeat…..”  It is incompatible with my beliefs.  It is a strange nest that holds rallies and its followers applaud – in unison-.
Skartishu, Granby MO

“CHICAGO. Dec. 16—Antoin “Tony” Rezko is a political insider, an energetic Chicago dealmaker and campaign fundraiser often in the headlines for being on the wrong side of good government. Indicted in October on influence-peddling charges, he also has a habit of befriending prospective political stars.

One of them was Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who was offered a job by Rezko in the early 1990s while a top student at Harvard Law School. Obama did not take it, but over the years, the two men stayed in touch, and Rezko backed Obama’s successful 2004 U.S. Senate campaign, raising money and contributing his own.

In June 2005, in what Obama now describes as a “boneheaded” mistake, Obama and Rezko’s wife bought adjacent properties on Chicago’s South Side, closing the deals on the same day. Seven months later, wanting a bigger yard for his $1.65 million house, Obama bought a slice of the Rezko property for $104,500. “

In Chicago area at the time of the trial, it was CLEAR that Obama’s name could have been brought into it (they simply choses other illegal deals to put him away).  He (Obama) and his choice for mayor (Emmanuel)  have done plenty of questionable things and influence peddling.  It was unbelievably unexamined before he was elected and remains lightly touched upon.  Cute how the O gets away with “I was knuckleheaded” when others go to prison!

“CHICAGO. Dec. 16—Antoin “Tony” Rezko is a political insider, an energetic Chicago dealmaker and campaign fundraiser often in the headlines for being on the wrong side of good government. Indicted in October on influence-peddling charges, he also has a habit of befriending prospective political stars.

One of them was Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who was offered a job by Rezko in the early 1990s while a top student at Harvard Law School. Obama did not take it, but over the years, the two men stayed in touch, and Rezko backed Obama’s successful 2004 U.S. Senate campaign, raising money and contributing his own.

In June 2005, in what Obama now describes as a “boneheaded” mistake, Obama and Rezko’s wife bought adjacent properties on Chicago’s South Side, closing the deals on the same day. Seven months later, wanting a bigger yard for his $1.65 million house, Obama bought a slice of the Rezko property for $104,500. “

In Chicago area at the time of the trial, it was CLEAR that Obama’s name could have been brought into it (they simply choses other illegal deals to put him away).  He (Obama) and his choice for mayor (Emmanuel)  have done plenty of questionable things and influence peddling.  It was unbelievably unexamined before he was elected and remains lightly touched upon.  Cute how the O gets away with “I was boneheaded” when others go to prison!  Or how Michelle’s made up job was non-essential to the local hospital once they left for Washington!!

Richard Davis

June 11, 2011, 1:29 p.m.

“Cute how the O gets away with “I was boneheaded” when others go to prison!  “

You forgot to describe what he’d go to prison for…yawn

when will they be asking for obama’s emails, bidens emails, pelosis emails, reids emails, franks emails weiners emails, and rangels emails?

Richard Davis

June 11, 2011, 2:46 p.m.

How do you know that any of the above people have not already released the email records you’re looking for Elaine, but the organizations making the request haven’t made it public?

You can actually make a request yourself:

Basics:

http://www.foiadvocates.com/intro.html

A sample letter for you to write requesting this information under FOI:

http://www.foiadvocates.com/samples/1.html

Why did this “email expose” occur?  That is, what national interest is being served?  Is it because she is perceived a a presidential candidate in 2010?  Or, perhaps. to make headlines for the highly competitive business of journalism? 

  As I recall, nothing was “vetted” about Mr. Obama"s connection with convicted terrorists (Bill Ayers for one) or his many connections with dubious Chicago politicians.  Or about his total lack of executive experience.

I am not a Palin supporter but I have to wonder about this email stuff.  I guess she is perceived as a “possible” contender and this should cut her off at the pass…

Let’s explore ALL emails from present, past,  and future politicians in the interest of transparency.

Get a life,, that is right… ProPublica should get a life… this is the most stupid thing I have ever heard of.  Why should anyone care what emails—he said she said.. it shows that the ultra liberals at ProPublica will do anything to discredit any conservative politican.  We should call for an investigation of ProPublica, one would not have to look far to see the ultra left funding this for some financial gain…..

Next time will you be requesting the records of Area 41 or some martian conspiracy…

Sarah is out of office and from first glance there is nothing here but her typical blather.. the same kind of garbage that ProPublica writes!!!!

Area 51

If you’d read the article, you’d understand that the request was made 3 years ago when Palin was governor and a candidate for vice president.

The state apparatus was able to foot-drag, extending a 10 day waiting period for 3 years, so the email history has only come out now.

Consider, for a moment, the possibility that the right’s strategy is indeed “Divide, and conquer.”.

Consider, if you will, the possibility that a distraction..a “Willie Horton”...a “al Qaeda training camps in Iraq”...a “Sarah Palin as President”...makes you look the other way.

It is important to know that Palin is a player, but she is a nitnoy player…is why the right sucked her out of comparative anonymity in 2008, once they concluded they’d been caught in too many lies to win.

She was a…distraction..

That doesn’t make the documents that transformed her from a regional liar into a national liar any less important…I wager, in fact, that you will never find the emails from the GOP to her that inducted her into the national level of liars.

Joyce Jenkins

June 12, 2011, 9:58 a.m.

I have admired some of the reporting done by ProPublica but I have to say that getting on this bandwagon somehow diminishes my respect. There is nothing important about her e-mails. This is unprecidented. Why was the same scrutiny not given to our current president?  What other candidate has been given the same attention? Certainly not a president that practically quit the Senate to campaign or vote present when in the chambers.  As much as I am NOT a fan of Palin, I find it curious how terrified people are of this woman and the lengths the media have gone to smear and discredit her personally and her family. Liberal women are the worst because they believe that they are elite and that no one else can connect with people like they can. This is just sad. The mysoginy is breathless.

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” ~ Shakespeare (Hamlet, Act III, scene II.)

Several contributors to this thread have commented on how some people appear to be “terrified” of Sarah Palin (although these contributors are NOT fans of Sarah, they’re quick to point out…). 

Sarah Palin is not a serious person. She’s a lazy learner, a loose cannon with her comments, and dangerously ignorant about the nature of the problems we face and how we as a nation got to where we are. All of this doesn’t make me terrified of her. It makes me terrified of my fellow citizens who actually see something there.

Sarah is the essential embodiment described in a quote by Goethe - “When ideas fail, words come in very handy. ”

If I may, I would like to add a line to the post by Richard Davis…
“especially if you have a teleprompter like Obama”

Dave W:  Apparently, you aren’t aware that EVERY president since Eisenhower has used a teleprompter.  It isn’t something that President Obama just figured out how to use…..they ALL used it.  I’m not sure why so many people glom onto the fact that he uses a teleprompter….get a life people.  I, for one, could not memorize some of the long speeches that he makes….and I seriously doubt ANY other person (or president) could either!

Oh, I don’t know, Didi Paano.  If you’re a Republican President whose schedule is so flexible - whose duties and responsibilities are so vague - that you spend 487 days at Camp David and 490 days at your Texas ranch…then you might find the time to memorize speeches.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-4728085-503544.html

Given the state of the nation after the tenure of a Republican President who certainly took the time to memorize speeches (whether he utilized that time for that purpose or not)...

Well, I don’t reckon I begrudge a working President the technology to make him more efficient.

Ok, so update us on the status of your FOIA request for all of President Obama’s emails while he was a state and then U.S. senator?  You know who I mean, the elected executive who actually has some power over all our lives? As opposed to a private citizen who has absolutely no influence on our lives. 

This is just pathetic. Get off this kick of trying to destroy this woman. You are only destroying yourselves and any remaining vestiges of trust that the public has in the old media. How can you be so dumb to not see this?

You’ve obviously made a value judgement that Sarah Palin is somehow a more reputable, upstanding person than other politicians, and that scrutiny of her actions when she served as governor of Alaska constitutes an “attack” on her.

  You may recall that one of the actions she took as governor was to *allegedly* attempt to get her state-trooper ex-brother-in-law fired, by having her staff pressure and then ultimately fire Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan for failing to taking action on it. There is no doubt that one of her staff did this - it’s on the record, what was never fully resolved was Palin’s role in it. Do you think that this is something that the voting public might want to know about in their Vice Presidential candidate? So do I.
  The FOIA request for emails was made when she was still governor and VP candidate, almost 3 years ago, while the investigation was still ongoing.

Save the sanctimonious whining about public trust and self destruction; this is just politics.

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