McCain's Partner and Soulmate Was Not Vetted
Questions surround Palin's background check
IN DEPTH? In Alaska, very few people were involved in the GOP vetting process.
By RICHARD MAUER, LISA DEMER and SEAN COCKERHAM
Anchorage Daily News
Published: September 2nd, 2008 12:51 AM
Last Modified: September 2nd, 2008 01:29 AM
Gov. Sarah Palin's reluctant announcement Monday that her unmarried, teenage daughter was within months of making her a grandmother at age 44 also turned a spotlight on Sen. John McCain, who would have Palin as his vice president.
McCain's presidential campaign spent the day trying to assure fellow Republicans and the nation that Palin's background was thoroughly vetted. The pregnancy of Bristol Palin, 17, came as no surprise to them, they said.
But in Alaska, it was hard to find anyone who had been contacted by McCain's campaign.
Thomas Van Flein, the Anchorage lawyer representing Palin and her office in the legislature's investigation into the firing of former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, said he spoke to several representatives from McCain before Palin's selection was announced Friday.
But Van Flein appears to be in a small minority in the vetting of Palin.
The former U.S. attorney for Alaska, Wev Shea, family friend, who enthusiastically recommended Palin back in March, said he was never contacted with any follow-up questions.
Chris Coleman, one of Palin's next-door neighbors, said no one representing McCain spoke to him about Palin. Another neighbor also was never contacted, he said Monday.
Republican Gail Phillips, a former speaker of the Alaska House, said Friday that she was shocked by McCain's selection of Palin and told her husband, Walt, "This can't be happening because his advance team didn't come to Alaska to check her out." She said she would've heard had someone been poking around.
"We're not a very big state," Phillips said. "People I talk to would've heard something."
Monegan, fired by Palin in July, said that no one from the McCain campaign contacted him, either. His firing is now the subject of a special legislative investigation into whether Palin or members of her administration improperly interfered with the running of his department by pushing for dismissal of a state trooper involved in a divorce and custody battle with Palin's sister.
Alaska Senate President Lyda Green, R-Wasilla, told The New York Times, "They didn't speak to anyone in the Legislature, they didn't speak to anyone in the business community."
Wasilla Mayor Dianne Keller said she had not heard of any efforts to look into Palin's background, the Times reported. And Randy Ruedrich, the state Republican Party chairman, said he knew nothing of any vetting that had been conducted.
State Sen. Hollis French, a Democrat who is directing the legislative investigation, said that no one asked him about the allegations. "I heard not a word, not a single contact," he told the Times.
Matanuska-Susitna Borough Mayor Curt Menard told the Daily News, "I never got called, and I never heard of anybody who got called." Perhaps, he laughed, "They don't even know where the Mat-Su Borough is."
Dan Seamount, who served with Palin and Ruedrich on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, wasn't contacted, either.
"I was taken by surprise just like everybody else," Seamount told the Daily News.
Seamount's observations might be of particular interest since he saw first hand how Palin was drawn into investigating Ruedrich for ethics violations in 2003. The case eventually led to Ruedrich being fined $12,000 and to Palin being thrust into the limelight as an ethics reformer in her own party.
On Sunday, The Washington Post quoted McCain campaign manager Rick Davis as saying the FBI conducted a background check of Palin.
But Monday, the FBI told the Atlantic Monthly no such check took place.
"In general, we do not do vetting for political campaigns except as it might regard investigations needed for security clearances," the magazine's Web site quoted John Miller, the chief FBI spokesman. If the agency had conducted a security check of Palin, it wouldn't have shared it with the campaign, the magazine said.