Palin, like Rove before her, stayed off government e-mail servers

How can Palin, Rove, Newsom (and probably others) get away with this?


Cyrus Farivar
September 15, 2008 9:05PM (UTC)

One of the best revelations that has come out about Sarah Palin's governorship is not only the fact that she's kept her e-mail off of public, taxpayer-funded, subpoena-able servers, but that she's doing so on a Yahoo e-mail account.

That's right, the governor of Alaska is conducting state business from something that's just a step above the ridiculousness of an e-mail address like palinpower907@yahoo.com. Her actual e-mail address (although most probably by now it's been overrun with spam and hate mail) is gov.sarah@yahoo.com.

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This e-mail address was discovered last week by an Anchorage female Republican government watchdog, Andrée McLeod. She had filed an open records request with the governor's office. She then received four boxes of correspondence, and a 78-page list of 1,100 e-mails (with the subject line revealed) that it was not releasing.

As Mother Jones reports:

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 Governor 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. McLeod asks, "What is Sarah Palin hiding?"

But here's the thing: This strategy of moving non-official email off of government servers is a well-known practice amongst Republicans and Democrats alike. President Bush famously stays off e-mail entirely lest it be subject to legal scrutiny. Karl Rove and others, meanwhile, used Republican National Committee e-mail accounts to conduct official government business.

In a lesser-known example right here in our backyard, as Valleywag pointed out this morning, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom was in touch with his staff via his personal iPhone late last year following the major oil spill in the San Francisco Bay. Apparently, because those communications are from the mayor's iPhone, even if he was conducting official city business on it, they are -- astonishingly -- not subject to subpoena.

What I want to know is, how is there such a gaping loophole in the world of government communications? How is it that simply by moving to another e-mail account that those communications cannot be touched by a legal 10-foot pole? I've got queries into a few legal scholars and will definitely be reporting back as soon as I get more info.


Cyrus Farivar

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