We’ve been poring over Sarah Palin’s just-released e-mails this afternoon, and our first impression is that they’re full of mundane stuff about travel schedules and family business – with little nuggets of news mixed in.
On family stuff, for instance, the big e-mail dump reveals the startling news that on Feb. 28, 2007, Todd Palin’s state-supplied assistant asked him to send Piper’s skates and helmet down to Juneau because she had ice skating lessons the following week in school.
A Juneau snowmobile club sent along an e-mail lobbying for Todd to join its ranks. Friends sent then-Governor Palin notes pushing their favorite candidates for Fish Board. Ice Alaska asked if Governor Palin would be interested in taking part in an on-ice awards ceremony.
Then on June 27, 2007, came this big news, in an e-mail from "First Dude" Todd: “Sarah says it is OK for Willow’s friends to jump on the trampoline but if they get out of control or one of them gets hurt on state grounds this could be a problem.”
On state business, a quick read of the first batch of e-mails scanned and put online at the nonprofit journalistic site ProPublica.org does show that Ms. Palin was quite worked up over the plight of a state-owned dairy that was losing money and in deep trouble when she took office.
The Matanuska Maid Dairy was an icon to many longtime Alaskans, but as of 2007 it was afloat due only to state subsidies. E-mails released Friday make clear that Palin and her supporters thought it had expanded too rapidly, that its inventory contained only about 30 percent Alaskan-made products, and that it might survive if it cut back and narrowed its focus to high-end cheese, milk, and ice cream that could be marketed as pure Alaskan.
The “Mat Maid” situation “gets me really steamed up,” said Palin in one e-mail.
On June 13, 2007, the Alaska Creamery Board voted to close the dairy rather than supply another $600,000 in state funds. Palin then replaced all members of the board, as she had power to do, and on June 18 the reconstituted board voted to keep the dairy open for 90 days.
That August, Palin said she was satisfied the business could not be saved. Its assets were subsequently sold.
The e-mails on this subject released Friday show that, if nothing else, Palin was sensitive to criticism on this subject – she and her staff passed around critical media coverage of her role in saving the dairy, for instance.
But with thousands of pages of e-mails still being scanned and made public by media organizations, it will be days, if not weeks, before the full contents of the just-released archive is sifted for all its news nuggets.
Alaska is releasing the thousands of e-mails only in Juneau, the state’s capital, which is accessible only by air or water. The release is on paper, not electronic media. The Associated Press and other news organizations first requested the e-mails during the 2008 presidential campaign as they attempted to vet John McCain’s then almost-unknown vice-presidential nominee.
State officials attribute the three-year delay in releasing the e-mails to the sheer volume of the material involved and the need to redact sensitive or personal references.