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E-mails show GOP circling Palin in late 2008

By Matt Smith, CNN
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Alaska releases Palin e-mails
  • NEW: Palin documents show GOP overtures in August 2008
  • NEW: E-mails reveal frustration with early ethics questions
  • Palin, aides express frustration with questions about children's travel
  • Palin wanted to know about "past administration's dealing" with scandal figure

Editor's note: CNN is in Juneau, Alaska, to examine the more than 24,000 pages of Sarah Palin's emails being released by the Alaska governor's office. They will be available over the weekend on and we invite our readers to examine them and contribute to the discussion. Share your thoughts on Palin's emails with iReport.

Juneau, Alaska (CNN) -- Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign and other Republicans began circling Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin in the weeks before McCain picked her as his 2008 running mate, according to e-mails from her old office.

Prominent Republicans had touted Palin as a possible running mate for a few months before. But the courtship appears to have accelerated in early August of 2008, just as the biggest controversy of her administration was gathering steam, according to some of the 24,000 pages of e-mails released by Alaska's state government Friday.

"Governor -- I received a call from Charles Adams, Communications Advisor Department for Senator McCain. Mr. Adams was inquiring as to whether or not you would be interested in participating in a National Press Call on Wednesday, 08.06.08," Palin's scheduler, Janice Mason, wrote the then-governor on August 4. "This would be with their National Pool of Reporters. It has very good attendance on calls. It would help the elected official. It would be a total of 15 minutes of your time and would be in regards to Energy."

It was not immediately clear whether Palin accepted the invitation. In her response to Mason, she questioned whether she could take part in the call, given a planned trip to southwestern Alaska.

Around the same time, Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley requested a brief courtesy visit during an August 11 trip to Alaska's capital Juneau.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich also e-mailed Palin to ask her advice on how Alaska distributed its oil taxes. Gingrich suggested Alaska's model, which guarantees every resident a cut of the proceeds, could be adopted in other states.

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And the Republican National Committee had Palin lined up for a 9 p.m. speaking slot at the party's convention in Minneapolis on September 2, the day she eventually delivered her acceptance speech, as early as August 20.

"RNC feels that this is a much better slot for you and they want you on Primetime," Mason wrote.

Nothing in the documents indicates whether Palin knew she was being considered for a slot on the national ticket, and further documents indicate she planned to stay at a Hilton Garden Inn and return from Minneapolis the day after her speech. Neither her husband, Todd, nor infant son, Trig, would be able to accompany her, she wrote -- "All the more reason to keep the trip short."

McCain eventually named Palin his choice for vice president on August 29, catapulting the once-obscure governor into the national spotlight and making her a potential contender for the GOP's No. 1 position in 2012.

State officials released the trove of e-mail -- six 11-by-17-inch boxes worth -- on Friday, the result of Freedom of Information Act requests dating to her vice presidential nomination. About three dozen reporters and photographers crammed into the crowded hallway of a state office building in Juneau and hauled them away for review Friday morning.

Around the same time that she was being considered for the vice presidential nomination, Palin was coming under increasing scrutiny over her firing of the state's public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan. Monegan's backers asserted that Palin had fired him because he refused to sack her ex-brother-in-law, a state police officer who had been involved in a bitter custody dispute with Palin's sister.

The flap became known as "Troopergate," and it dogged Palin throughout the remainder of the campaign. Two investigations came to differing conclusions about her actions: One found she violated state ethics law by using state employees to put pressure on her former in-law, another found she had stayed within the law and little evidence she knew of the actions of her subordinates. The first investigation was commissioned by the state Legislature, the second requested by Palin herself.

On August 6, 2008, Palin was told that the Legislature's investigator, Steven Branchflower, had requested "a laundry list" of records from the governor's office: "Emails, files correspondence, names and addresses of any and all staff that would have any knowledge of Walt's firing," wrote her then-chief of staff, Mike Nizich.

In the e-mail, one of those released Friday, Nizich adds, "You got to be kidding me." And Palin replies, "Geez. This is crazy."

Earlier records in the stash show Palin's frustration with complaints about her family's state-paid travel even before she entered the national spotlight, instructing an aide to remind a reporter "of the family travels w (with) me that I have personally pd (paid) for."

"Hopefully our records very clearly show that," Palin wrote on July 10, 2008. "Also, my return of every per diem offer for everything related to the kids ... and we need to be proactive in this issue with reminding him of all the steps taken to save state monies like no Anchorage apartment ... no chef ... security down from 7 to 2, whatever."

Palin eventually paid back about $7,000 for travel expenses for her children after an ethics investigator determined nine trips were questionable. The settlement stated that Palin did not violate Alaska's ethics law or commit any wrongdoing, and that she followed the advice of experienced staff.

A spokesman for her political action committee said Friday that the documents show "a governor hard at work."

"The thousands upon thousands of e-mails released today show a very engaged Governor Sarah Palin being the CEO of her state," said Tim Crawford, treasurer of Sarah PAC, Palin's political action committee.

Meanwhile, in a scandal that rocked Alaska's political establishment, Palin moved quickly to link a key figure to her defeated predecessor, Frank Murkowski, the documents show.

"FYI -- I've asked Frank Bailey to help me track down soem [sic] evidence of past administration's dealing with Bill Allen," Palin wrote on May 8, 2007, a day after Allen pleaded guilty to bribery, extortion and conspiracy.

Palin had beaten Murkowski in 2006 in a primary battle in which she campaigned as a reformer, and backed an unsuccessful 2010 challenge to Murkowski's daughter, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski.

Allen had been the CEO of the Alaska oilfield services company VECO, and federal prosecutors accused him of leading a scheme to bribe top lawmakers in exchange for favorable state action. The scandal disgraced several lawmakers and led to prison time for Allen.

Aides soon replied that VECO had paid $15,000 to fly Frank Murkowski and Allen to a Council of State Governments meeting in Thailand in 2004. Palin aides also asked Allen to resign from a seat on a state board that cultivated ties with the Canadian province of Alberta, a request to which Allen -- who was later sentenced to three years in prison -- quickly agreed.

The documents include messages from Palin's official account as well as private accounts, according to Linda Perez, the administrative director for current Gov. Sean Parnell. A search was done "in an effort to capture everything in the state e-mail system" that would comply with the request, Perez said.

Perez said 2,275 pages are not being released due to legal privileges, while some documents were redacted to remove names. E-mails for the remaining 10 months of Palin's tenure, leading up to her 2009 resignation, have yet to be released.

Before the release, Palin told "Fox News Sunday" that the messages "obviously weren't meant for public consumption," saying she was sure the material would be taken out of context.

"I think every rock in the Palin household that could ever be kicked over and uncovered anything, it's already been kicked over," she said.

CNN's Drew Griffin, Kathleen Johnston, Katie Glaeser and Steve Brusk contributed to this report.