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Sarah Palin emails: Treasure trove or waste of paper?

So far, there are no bombshells in the thousands of Sarah Palin emails released this week. But they reveal a fuller, more nuanced picture of one of the most powerful and controversial women in US politics today.

By Staff writer / June 11, 2011

Juneau resident Barb Belknap, a volunteer reader for, reads a Sarah Palin email. More than 24,000 emails from Palin's time as Alaska's governor released Friday paint a fuller picture of one of the most powerful and controversial women in US politics today.

Brian Wallace/AP


Like Alaskan miners panning for gold, reporters up in Juneau are combing through hundreds of pounds of Sarah Palin emails, looking for the nugget that’ll make it all worthwhile. So far, it seems more bust than boom.

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There have been no bombshells, nothing that radically changes the picture of the most famous and controversial woman in US politics today. Just the image of an ambitious politician, hands-on in the daily details of governing a vast though sparsely-populated state, and with a deep and wary skepticism of the press – plus a now-familiar sense of personal grievance – that preceded her becoming a national figure.

She’s miffed when reporters ask about the government paying her family’s travel expenses or that tanning bed in the governor’s residence.

How well do you know Sarah Palin? A quiz.

There were darker rumors and blog posts to respond to as well: Suggestions that she’d had an affair or questions about the true parentage of her son Trig.

"Guys, I may be pretty wimpy about this family stuff, but I feel like I'm at the breaking point with the hurtful gossip,” she wrote her staff at one point. “I hate this part of the job and many days I feel like it's not worth it."

A strong supporter of Alaska’s gas and oil industry, she finds ExxonMobil’s legal fight against paying victims of the Exxon Valdez oil spill “outrageous.” She even praises Barack Obama for his “great speech” on energy.

In a state with the population of a medium-size city spread over a vast area, plus an isolated capital, politics is not only very local but also unusually personal. For Palin, this may have been especially true.

She and her husband Todd (a close, though informal, advisor who didn’t hesitate to wade into policy matters) took a close personal interest in the firing of a state trooper – critics say on trumped-up charges – who happened to be going through a messy divorce with Gov. Palin’s sister.

When state public safety director Walt Monegan refused to fire the trooper, Palin fired Monegan.

Weeks before John McCain shook up the political world in tapping her to be his vice-presidential running mate, Palin and her staff were angling for that possibility.


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