05.10.11

Alaska Investigates Sarah Palin Tell-All Writer

The state attorney general is probing whether former Sarah Palin aide Frank Bailey misused emails for his scathing book, due out this month. The Palin critic who filed the complaint tells Shushannah Walshe why she shifted her sights to Bailey.

Former Sarah Palin aide Frank Bailey’s bombshell tell-all, Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin, may be a juicy read, but could it also be unlawful? The Alaska attorney general is investigating Bailey for allegedly using state emails wrongfully in the scathing book, due out later this month, and is working with the state’s IT division to discover whether it is missing emails that may be in Bailey’s possession.

The allegations, first reported by the Anchorage Daily News, were leveled in an ethics complaint filed by Anchorage activist and vocal Palin critic Andree McLeod. “Please be assured that we take this matter very seriously and are working to ensure that the state has possession of all state records and emails,” Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton Walsh wrote in a letter to McLeod confirming the investigation.

In a leaked draft of the manuscript obtained by The Daily Beast in February, Bailey writes that for the book he used more than 60,000 email messages he sent or received while serving as Palin’s aide. The draft also includes messages Bailey was not copied on.

McLeod has filed a number of ethics complaints against Palin and members of her administration, and Palin has cited what she called “frivolous ethics complaints” from McLeod and others filed as a major reason she resigned as governor of Alaska. But in this complaint, McLeod is turning to Bailey, alleging that he broke the state’s Executive Branch Ethics Act, legislation Palin championed. The law stipulates that current or former public officers are not allowed to “disclose or use information gained in the course of, or by reason of, the officer’s official duties that could in any way result in the receipt of any benefit for the officer or an immediate family member, if the information has not also been disseminated to the public.”

“The issue for me is not just that Frank Bailey is making money off his public office, which to me is an egregious act,” McLeod told The Daily Beast. “To me the issue here is a public official, whether it be Frank Bailey the aide to Palin, or any of the commissioners involved in high-level gas negotiations, when they leave their office, they’re not supposed to take that stuff with them…He wants to go and make money off this, and the ethics act says you can’t.”

When public officials “leave their office, they’re not supposed to take that stuff with them,” said McLeod. “He wants to go and make money off this, and the ethics act says you can’t.”

Bailey said in a statement through his attorney, Kevin Clarkson, that he is cooperating with the attorney general’s office, providing a copy of his manuscript and copies of emails excerpted in the book “for review and approval prior to submitting the final manuscript to his publisher.” After the attorney general reviewed the draft, Bailey “removed from his book references to a few e-mails that the State indicated it believed were covered by applicable privileges or confidentiality requirements,” he said.

Bailey called McLeod’s allegations “baseless” and said McLeod has an ax to grind because she did not land a job in the administration after Palin became governor, a claim Palin also made in her memoir Going Rogue. Bailey is making his personal email accounts available to the state, he added, saying he “has gone above and beyond in his compliance with the law and the State’s requests, and he has gone far above the efforts of others who previously worked in the Governor’s office during the Palin Administration.”

“Too little, too late,” said McLeod. Bailey should have produced the emails in 2008, she said, when Palin was chosen as John McCain’s running mate and the initial requests for her email records began. McLeod said Bailey—who is co-authoring the book with California-based writer Ken Morris and Jeanne Devon, founder of the popular Alaska politics and anti-Palin website Mudflats—is producing the emails now only to make money, calling his actions “absolutely immoral, unlawful, and just plain wrong.”

McLeod, along with journalists and Palin observers, would love to get her hands on two batches of emails in particular, and it is unclear which Bailey is using for his book. In 2008, McLeod, the Associated Press, NBC News, MSNBC, Mother Jones, and others filed a Freedom of Information Act request for emails sent on government accounts by Palin, her husband, Todd, and other senior aides. Those emails—close to 27,000, according to the state—are set to be released later this month. When Bailey’s manuscript was leaked initially, his agent said the book’s emails were not going to be part of the FOIA release. McLeod doesn’t have high hopes for the long awaited emails and said she thinks most of the information will be redacted.

“We lawfully, legally went through the legal process to get these emails, and here’s this schmuck...and he’s sharing this with two private citizens. He got it unlawfully,” McLeod said.

The second batch of emails that has not been disseminated publicly is from Palin’s Yahoo account, which she used to conduct state business. Those came to light during the 2008 campaign, when it was revealed Palin and other senior aides possibly used Yahoo accounts to circumvent the Alaska Public Records Act. McLeod and others have been fighting for the release of those emails as well, but because they are not on the state server, they may never be released, though they may appear now in Bailey’s tell-all. Aside from a limited number of previously released emails, neither of the batches has been released to the public.

When Palin’s Yahoo account was hacked, it was Bailey who helped clean up the mess. It is possible that he then obtained access to her emails, or that he held on to them throughout the time he spent working for her.

The Palin camp, for its part, appears serene about the soon-to-be-released insider account. A Palin insider told The Daily Beast, “It’s not a part of the conversation. No one talks about it. No one cares.”

Shushannah Walshe covers politics for The Daily Beast. She is the co-author of Sarah From Alaska: The Sudden Rise and Brutal Education of a New Conservative Superstar. She was a reporter and producer at the Fox News Channel from August 2001 until the end of the 2008 presidential campaign.