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Palin’s Missing Emails

Via Huffington Post. From the “Where Have We Heard This Before?” file, Mother Jones reports that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is withholding more than 1,000 emails from its response to an open records request from Andrée McLeod, a “self-described independent government watchdog.”

From the Mother Jones blog:

[McLeod] requested copies of all the emails that had been sent and received by Ivy Frye and Frank Bailey, two top aides to Palin, from February through April of this year. McLeod, a 53-year-old registered Republican who has held various jobs in state government, suspected that Frye and Bailey had engaged in political activity during official business hours in that period by participating in a Palin-backed effort to oust the state chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, Randy Ruedrich. (Bailey has been in the national news of late for refusing to cooperate with investigators probing whether Palin fired Alaska’s public safety commission because he did not dismiss a state trooper who had gone through an ugly divorce with Palin’s sister.)

McLeod received four boxes of emails, which did not contain evidence of the wrongdoing McLeod suspected.

But more intriguing than any email correspondence contained in the four boxes was what was not released: about 1.100 emails. Palin’s office provided McLeod with a 78-page list (PDF) cataloging the emails it was withholding. Many of them had been written by Palin or sent to her. Palin’s office claimed most of the undisclosed emails were exempt from release because they were covered by the “executive” or “deliberative process” privileges that protect communications between Palin and her aides about policy matters.

But the subject lines of some of the withheld emails suggest they were not related to policy matters. Several refer to one of Palin’s political foes, others to a well-known Alaskan journalist. Moreover, some of the withhold emails were CC’ed to Todd Palin, the governor’s husband. Todd Palin—a.k.a. the First Dude—holds no official state position (though he has been a close and influential adviser for Gov. Palin). The fact that Palin and her aides shared these emails with a citizen outside the government undercuts the claim that they must be protected under executive privilege.

Palin’s non-compliance with the open government laws of her home state would appear to run counter to the McCain campaign’s espoused platform of reform and transparent government.

According to Sunshine Review, a Website advocating open government, a 2007 review by the Better Government Assn. and the National Freedom of Information Coalition gave Alaska a score of three — out of a possible 100 — for its responsiveness to freedom-of-information requests. Of course, Palin was in office for less than a year when that study was completed, but given that she is presenting herself as a government reformer, one would expect her to hold herself to a higher standard than that of her predecessors.

After years of the Bush administration’s stonewalling on the fate of millions of internal emails, Palin’s behavior as governor should probably raise some eyebrows.

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