Palin Emails: Todd is a “private citizen”…except when he’s not…
I have a little bit of personal experience with this Palin email thing. However, mine were so redacted, they were no fun at all. So, like many others, I’ve enjoyed making up my own searches of the awesome 2011 Palin Email Database, courtesy of MSNBC and Crivella West.
The REAL fun happens when I’m searching on one topic and stumble upon another quite accidentally.
For example, I was doing a search on a lobbyist name or two and found this email from Palin’s assistant/residence manager:
From : Erika Fagerstrom [email@example.com. ak.us]
Sent: Friday, April 20, 2007 1:43 PM
To: Governor Sarah Palin; firstname.lastname@example.org
Cc: Tibbles; Michael A (GOV); Spencer; Kari L (GOV)
Subject : GUEST LIST QUESTION- Friends of the Governor’s Mansion Foundation Fundraiser, May 9th, 2007 at
Hello Governor and Mr. Palin,
The list of lobbyists for the Friends of the Governor’s Mansion Foundation Fundraiser are listed below for your review/approval. I’ve also attached the 2007 Lobbyist Directory in case you wanted the client/employer information. Please let me know if you’d like to make any changes or have any additional guests that you’d like to include.
Nice! A party held at the Governor’s Mansion, owned by the citizens of Alaska, specifically for the lobbyists.
As interesting as that was, the part that caught my attention was this paragraph:
F.Y.I. – The Foundation pays for the food, beverage, and staff over time expenses, so that it’s not an expense that the House incurs. I have a copy of a memorandum from the Department of Law from March
14, 2005 where the question was asked if there would be any Executive Ethics Act (AS 39.52) or other legal concerns presented if the foundation held a fundraiser at the Governor’s Mansion and the conclusion (was that the First Lady (Gentleman in this case) is not a ” public official ” under the Ethics Act, the strictures of the Act do not apply to her /him. The Governor may also host fundraising activities at the residence , and he may freely invite guests and host functions as he/she deems proper. Of course, there is much more information, and this is paraphrased, but I wanted you to be aware of some of the issues that have been addressed. I could fax a copy to you if you’d like.
I’ll repeat that — a 2005 Department of Law decision stated that the Governor’s spouse is NOT a “public official” so the Executive Branch Ethics Act does not apply.
The Petumenos Report agrees. Remember, that’s the response to the ethics complaint (the most expensive ethics complaint for the State of Alaska) that Sarah Palin filed with the Personnel Board against herself to circumvent the “Troopergate” investigation undertaken by the Alaska Legislature? His finding was that Todd Palin could not have broken any ethics laws because he was not a State employee:
Todd Palin is a private citizen and not covered by the Executive Ethics Act.
“At the end of the day, you have to point me to a statute that says a public official is responsible for a private citizen,” Petumenos said. “There isn’t one.”
First spouses are free to contact public officials just as any private citizen can, he said. Of course, it’s unlikely that many commissioners and top officials would take an ordinary citizen’s phone call or show up for time-consuming meetings to discuss a grievance, but that they did so for Todd Palin is completely legal, he said.
Yet, a decision from Judge Patrick “2nd DUI” McKay seems to disagree. His decision from a year ago denied Andree McLeod’s appeal of the lower court decision — that the State of Alaska could redact emails for “deliberative process” even though First Dude (and alleged private citizen) was a recipient. His logic was partially drawn from a court case against Hillary Clinton claiming that she was not an federal government employee when she was First Lady.
First, the Court found that “Congress itself has recognized that the President’s spouse acts as the functional equivalent of an assistant to the President,” since Congress appropriates funds to the First Lady’s office to aid in the discharge of the President’s duties and responsibilities.
The Court also found that even without Congressional approval, the President has “implicit authority to enlist his spouse in the aid of the discharge of his federal duties.” This reflects a “longstanding tradition of public service by First Ladies dating back to at least Sarah Polk.” The Court concluded that it is reasonable to “treat the presidential spouse as a de facto officer or employee…”
All of this leads to McKay’s conclusion:
“Absent any Alaska Law to the contrary, common sense and federal law require finding that Todd Palin could properly have acted as an advisor to the Governor, thereby rendering the six emails at question in this appeal subject to the deliberative process privilege.”
So, Petumenos cites a lack of an Alaska Statute as proof that Palin is a private citizen, while McKay says that a lack of an Alaska Statute proves that Todd Palin acts as a public employee…an advisor to the Governor.
Golly, I can’t figure out why the rest of the country thinks we’re idiots.
The tantalizing contradiction has not slipped the notice of legal minds both in and out of Alaska. It also hasn’t slipped the notice of the current Administration either. According to my understanding of statute, there is a two-year limitation on filing ethics complaints against public officers after leaving office…which would be in about five weeks. So, the fact that there was no redaction in the email containing Erika Fagerstrom’s question while the response has been redacted to oblivion is extremely interesting.
Contrary to the media’s claim (simply repeated from the Palin camp) that there is “nothing to find” in the Palin emails, there are many interesting pieces of information to be discovered…if you know where to look.