Palin's e-mail battle with McCain camp

An article in Salon about the campaign's ties to the Alaska Independence Party set off a nasty exchange

Published July 2, 2009 2:03PM (EDT)

Todd Purdum's Vanity Fair article on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has led to a wave of revelations about the inner workings of the McCain campaign, especially when it came to the issue of Palin herself. Now, CBS News has revealed a spat between Palin and the campaign's chief strategist, Steve Schmidt, that was sparked by an article published here in Salon. 

The article, authored by Max Blumenthal and David Neiwert with research support from the Nation Institute Investigative Fund, detailed Palin's connections with the Alaska Independence Party, which advocates secession from the U.S. Todd Palin was a member for seven years, until 2002, and during her time on the Wasilla city council and as mayor of the town, Palin maintained an open door for the party.

But towards the end of the campaign, Palin saw a CNN report based on Salon's story, and heard from someone at a campaign event about the AIP. And she wanted something done, CBS reports. In an e-mail to Schmidt, campaign manager Rick Davis, senior advisor Nicolle Wallace and her husband, Palin wrote:

Pls get in front of that ridiculous issue that's cropped up all day today -- two reporters, a protestor's sign, and many shout-outs all claiming Todd's involvement in an anti-American political party. It's bull, and I don't want to have to keep reacting to it ... Pls have statement given on this so it's put to bed.

Schmidt didn't want distractions, though, and wisely wasn't about to let the issue get bigger. In response, he wrote:

Ignore it. He was a member of the aip? My understanding is yes. That is part of their platform. Do not engage the protestors. If a reporter asks say it is ridiculous. Todd loves america.

That, according to CBS, wasn't enough for Palin. She e-mailed again, this time adding more recipients, and writing:

That's not part of their platform and he was only a "member" bc independent alaskans too often check that 'Alaska Independent' box on voter registrations thinking it just means non partisan. He caught his error when changing our address and checked the right box. I still want it fixed.

But as CBS notes, that seems implausible -- the registration form includes the full name of the AIP, which identifies it as a party and not just as an independent option. Schmidt apparently didn't believe her 0n this, and thought she was lying about reporters asking her about the issue as well. In the final e-mail of the exchange, he wrote:

Secession. It is their entire reason for existence. A cursory examination of the website shows that the party exists for the purpose of seceding from the union. That is the stated goal on the front page of the web site. Our records indicate that todd was a member for seven years. If this is incorrect then we need to understand the discrepancy. The statement you are suggesting be released would be innaccurate. The innaccuracy would bring greater media attention to this matter and be a distraction. According to your staff there have been no media inquiries into this and you received no questions about it during your interviews. If you are asked about it you should smile and say many alaskans who love their country join the party because it speeks to a tradition of political independence. Todd loves his country

We will not put out a statement and inflame this and create a situation where john has to adress this.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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