Yesterday MSNBC released emails that Todd Palin exchanged with state officials (including his wife, Governor Sarah Palin) that were requested from the State of Alaska under their public records law. The claim the emails reveal a “powerful first dude.” Bill Dedman writes:
Nearly 3,000 pages of e-mails that Todd Palin exchanged with state officials, which were released to msnbc.com and NBC News by the state of Alaska under its public records law, draw a picture of a Palin administration where the governor’s husband got involved in a judicial appointment, monitored contract negotiations with public employee unions, received background checks on a corporate CEO, added his approval or disapproval to state board appointments and passed financial information marked "confidential" from his oil company employer to a state attorney.
Though MSNBC spins this in a negative light, I have to say there’s nothing there. They prove nothing other than he was an informal unpaid advisor to Governor Palin, and at time some of her staff. Just in reading the emails they refer to:
- His receiving background check on a corporate CEO was a search of public records that really any resident of Alaska could be privy to.
- His “getting involved in a judicial appointment” was him following up on questions that he was receiving himself.
- His “monitoring contract negotiations with public employee unions” was basically him saying “good job,” perhaps his involvement was sought since he was a union member himself?
- Him “adding his approval or disapproval to state board appointments” was simply him being asked for names of people he may know. How exactly is that inappropriate? He wasn’t making appointments or even vetoing, but simply asked to supply the names of people who may be a good fit.
- Regarding the confidential financial information, the Palin’s attorney, Thomas Van Flein in a statement responded to that charge:
The article posits that Todd Palin "passed financial information marked ‘confidential’ from his oil company employer to a state attorney." The author clearly implies that Todd Palin, who was not a member of the British Petroleum management team, obtained secret "financial" information and surreptitiously gave it to a State assistant attorney general. The true facts are as follows: Todd Palin received an email from a third party (an email that was apparently making the rounds in Alaska) and he forwarded that to a state attorney on August 29, 2007. But the information in the email itself was dated February 19, 2004–three and half years earlier–and the information addressed safety performance for 2003 and overall productivity. Of course, as a highly regulated producer in Alaska, this is largely the same information provided to state regulatory agencies, taxing authorities, and even publicly disclosed to its shareholders. See BP Annual Report and Accounts 2003 & http://www.bp.com/extendedsectiongenericarticle.do?categoryId=9021605&contentId=7040949
The latter part of the email referred to performance data for 2005 again analyzing production, costs and safety. So there are two distinct errors in the article: (1) the email itself was circulating in Alaska and was simply forwarded to Todd by a third party, it was not an email that was sent by BP to Todd Palin wherein he was told it was "confidential" and (2) the type of information within the email was years old and all, if not most, was a matter of public record under the tight regulatory strictures BP operates under and its release of data to shareholders, securities regulators, the department of Revenue, and the state oil and gas commission, among others.
The bottom line is that this story reveals nothing new.
I’m curious if MSNBC requested to receive to correspondence that Michelle Obama received or sent (not that I would want them to) what would they find? How about Hillary Clinton when she was the First Lady? We know that she was heavily involved in White House policy, probably even more so that Vice President Al Gore. If you were to look at emails from any Governor’s spouse you would probably find much of the same.
This is MSNBC trying to dredge up a story when there is no story there. Also, requesting emails exchanged between Governor Palin and her husband is just plain creepy.
But that is MSNBC for you. Is there any wonder why their ratings are in the tank?