Alaska releases thousands of Sarah Palin emails

Holly Bailey

After nearly three years of delay, the state of Alaska has released 24,199 pages of Sarah Palin's emails from her first two years as the state's governor later today.

News organizations have been fighting for access to the emails since 2008, when reporters filed open-records requests to view the messages shortly after John McCain tapped the then-largely unknown governor to be his running mate.

State officials dragged their feet on the requests--in part because of the volume of the data and the complexity of retrieving all of the emails. The messages set for release at 1 p.m. EST include emails from Palin's official state account, as well as a private Yahoo account that she frequently used to communicate with her top aides and her husband, Todd.

According to the state, Palin gave Alaska officials a CD of relevant emails from her Yahoo account.

The messages date from Palin's first days in office in December 2006 through September 2008—a period that covers most of the presidential election, but not her time as McCain's running mate. This release of correspondence also does not include her final tumultuous 10 months in office—Palin resigned in July 2009—though there have been public records requests for those emails as well.

Palin insisted earlier this week that she doesn't believe there's any big news in the emails. "Every rock in the Palin household that could ever be kicked over and uncovered anything, it's already been kicked over," she told "Fox News Sunday."

And indeed, her lawyers were able to review the emails before they were released to the media. According to the state, many of the emails set for release today have been heavily redacted, while 2,275 pages are being withheld for reasons including executive privilege. Another 140 pages are being held back because they were deemed unrelated to state business.

It's unclear if anything in the emails could harm Palin's potential 2012 presidential bid--but the drip, drip, drip pace of the documents' release could potentially prove most damaging. The former governor's emails are being released in printed form, as opposed to electronically. Seventeen news organizations and individuals are in Juneau today to begin combing through the messages, which are spread out among dozens of boxes that reportedly weigh 50 pounds each. That means Palin's messages are likely to be more than just a one-day story.

Some media organizations, including the Washington Post and New York Times are looking to "crowdsource" the documents in hopes of funding any nuggets about Palin's time as governor.  MSNBC, Mother Jones, and ProPublica are reportedly working on assembling a database of the emails. Meanwhile the Anchorage Daily News has partnered with ABC News to scan the documents and get them online.

The episodes of most interest in the emails are likely to be Palin's messages during various ethics inquiries during her first term. That includes the scandal known as "Troopergate," in which Palin was accused of pressuring public safety officials to fire her estranged brother-in-law, an Alaska state trooper who was going through a bitter divorce from her sister.

But more than anything, the emails are likely to shed more light on Palin's day-to-day as governor—a time that, in spite of her rise on the national political scene, is still engulfed in plenty of mystery.

Timothy Crawford, a Palin spokesman, said in a statement the emails would show that Palin was a "very engaged...CEO of her state." "The emails entail a governor hard at work," Crawford said. "Everyone should read them."

(Photo of Palin: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)