JUNEAU, Alaska -- E-mails shed new light on Todd Palin's role while his wife was Alaska's governor, showing that the one-time oil field worker's advice was sought on board appointments and suggesting he was close to matters related to state government, his wife's image and politics.
Relatively few of the messages obtained as part of a public records request were sent by Todd Palin himself.
Rather, his personal e-mail address is included on messages sent by administration staff, top aides to then-Gov. Sarah Palin and Palin on topics ranging from use of the state plane to day-to-day governing issues and oil and gas legislation that Palin made a hallmark of her 2 1/2 years in office.
But the e-mails, first reported by MSNBC.com, together provide fresh insight into what many had suspected was a highly influential role played by the self-proclaimed "First Dude." They also reflect the at-times fierce loyalty that Todd Palin and others close to the former governor felt, particularly amid tensions with lawmakers and criticism in the media.
"Have Meg take the news miner off the press release address list for a few days,see how long it takes them to realize their not on the list," Todd Palin wrote to his wife in an e-mail, dated June 21, 2007, after the governor questioned the fairness of an editor in Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
It's not clear from the e-mails whether there was a policy, unspoken or otherwise, that Todd Palin be copied in on certain matters either because he was a key adviser or a mere backstop to the governor. Several former aides to Sarah Palin declined comment Friday.
E-mails released came with a 19-page list that detailed information the state withheld for privacy, executive privilege and other reasons. Descriptions of those documents range from interview requests and potential board appointees to possible budget vetoes, gas production and confidentiality issues.
In November 2008, then-Palin chief of staff Michael Nizich wrote in response to a public records request denial that Todd Palin, "as first gentleman, is a proper advisor."
"There is nothing inappropriate about the spouse of a chief executive playing such a role," Nizich wrote. "The governor is absolutely entitled to involve him in policy matters as an advisor as she sees fit."
Palin attorney Thomas Van Flein said in a statement Friday that each spouse of a chief executive is free to define his or her own role.
Todd Palin "was, and remains, a close advisor to the governor. Those in the administration knew this, and the public knew this," he wrote. "There is nothing unusual, untoward or inappropriate for a spouse of a chief executive to provide guidance, input and hands on assistance."
The e-mails are wide-reaching, ranging from housekeeping issues such as travel arrangements, trampoline jumping for his daughter Willow's friends and power for a tanning bed to board appointments, legislation and ethics and politics.
One, from an administration aide in June 2007, said he'd found "very little" in response to Todd Palin's request for background on an Alaska dairy official. In another e-mail, also from June 2007, Todd Palin asks the state Director of Boards and Commissions Ivy Frye about a potential judicial candidate, saying he's "getting calls from folks hoping he's not selected. Let me know whats happening so I can put to rest some of the rumors." The person's name was redacted.
Frye asks Palin in another e-mail if he knows Kim Williams of Dillingham, whose term on a domestic violence/sexual assault board was expiring. Contents of his response were redacted; Frye's answer wasn't: "Thank you. This was very helpful."
Williams, who said she served on the board under former Gov. Frank Murkowski and no longer does, said she doesn't care what Todd Palin may or may not have said about her. "It's still the governor's call," she said Friday, adding she's sure the person appointed by Sarah Palin is doing a "great job."
The state's current Boards and Commissions director, Jason Hooley, said that while he can't speak to past practices, it's not usual to try to vet applicants "in as many ways as possible."
The traditional role of first spouse is one Todd Palin seemed ill-fitted for, though he did carry out some ceremonial duties, like hosting a tea at the governor's mansion.
Clive Thomas, a political science professor at the University of Alaska Southeast, said the role the e-mails hint at him playing is unusual in Alaska. Past governors, at least publicly, did not appear influenced by their spouses.
"Obviously, you can't stop a husband and wife, who are partners, from talking," he said. " ... I guess she trusted her husband."