JUNEAU, Alaska — Nearly 25,000 pages of emails from the administration of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin are about to meet the prying eyes of reporters and the public on Friday.
The document release is part of a Freedom of Information Act request filed in 2008 by news organizations and private citizens shortly after Palin was chosen as Sen. John McCain’s running mate on the Republican presidential ticket.
Back then, little was known about the Alaska governor, but after Palin’s email was hacked during the presidential race, we learned that she conducted a great deal of state business via a personal account.
Friday’s release will cover all of the emails Palin sent, received or was copied on using her official state address from her inauguration in December 2006 through September 2008 — the month after McCain tapped her to be the vice presidential nominee.
It is unknown what document divers will find in trove of messages, but the time period covers her early legislative achievements as the youngest and first female governor of Alaska — including her efforts to increase taxes on oil companies and develop a natural gas pipeline as well as passing stronger ethics laws. It also includes the so-called Troopergate scandal, an episode that became a minor national issue on the 2008 campaign trail but turned into a major potential abuse of power scandal in her home state.
Palin’s use of her private email addresses for state business was likely an attempt to avoid record requests like this one. Therefore, Friday’s release will include emails that are deemed “state business” sent to and from her Yahoo accounts to the official state government accounts of 50 of her top aides and cabinet members. Emails sent from Palin’s personal accounts to other aides’ personal accounts may never see the light of day although a lawsuit is pending to try to release those as well.
Local and national journalists have descended upon Juneau, a town of about 30,000 whose population fluctuates in the summer based on the number of tourists docking in cruise ships at its port, to get a first look at the messages.
ABC News will mine the documents for interesting information and other nuggets from the 24,199 pages of emails, which requesting organizations will be receiving later Friday morning in 6 boxes weighing 55 lbs each.
The Alaska governor’s office, which is handling the release, is distributing a total of 132 boxes on Friday and another 18 boxes on Monday to news outlets, several state offices and state legislators who requested them and paid the more than $700 copying fee for each set of documents.
At the center of it all is Linda Perez, the administrative director in the governor’s office, who was holed up Thursday afternoon in a state office building known around town as the “Spam Can” (it’s architecture resembles a container of the popular lunch meat). Perez, whose office is adorned with the skin of a massive Denali grizzly bear, offered us a glimpse of the boxes being readied for release at 9 a.m. Alaska time on Friday.
Portions of the messages will be redacted — though it’s unclear how much — and it is important to note that these emails are being released by the administration of Gov. Sean Parnell, Palin’s Republican Lieutenant Governor who took over for her after her surprising resignation in July 2009. Many of the people who worked in the Palin administration now work for Parnell.
A total of 2,275 pages are being withheld from the release with the state citing privacy reasons, among other concerns.
Gov. Parnell’s deputy press secretary, Sharon Leighow, who also served in Palin’s communications office will be on hand in Juneau on Friday to answer reporters’ questions.
And Friday’s mammoth email release will not be the end of the story. Another batch of Palin’s messages, covering the period from October 2008 to her resignation, are set to be made public although it is unclear when.
ABC News’ Eloise Harper and Laura Ganis contributed reporting.