Curious Alaska is a weekly feature powered by your questions. What do you want to know or want us to investigate about life in Alaska, stories behind the news or why things are the way they are? Let us know in the form at the bottom of the story.
Question: What’s Sarah Palin up to?
Curious Alaska is glad you asked.
Thirteen years after her sudden rise to national notoriety, Sarah Palin is simultaneously the most famous Alaskan and nearly invisible within the state.
To answer this question, we tried reaching out to the former governor via the usual routes: Fairbanks-based attorney John Tiemessen, who has represented her on business matters over the years. The speakers bureau that represents her for paid appearances. We even tracked down the former editor of her website, sarahpalin.com, a recent Liberty University graduate named Larry. We reached out to Kevin Scholla, the host of Mama Grizzly radio and a Palin superfan. We called other past associates. We sent Sarah herself a direct message on Instagram.
No one responded. Not even an “absolutely not.”
It’s not that hard to see why. Palin hasn’t done mainstream media interviews in years. After a firestorm of media attention back in 2008, when Palin launched onto the national stage as John McCain’s running mate, the family and inner circle closed ranks and haven’t spoken to local media much since.
And when the Palin family has been in Alaska news reports over the past decade, it’s usually because a personal, painful family matter has spilled over into the public, like the 2014 Palin brawl, eldest son Track’s multiple domestic violence criminal charges (including one in which he assaulted his father) and Todd and Sarah’s divorce.
Lacking a direct line to Palin herself, we turned to the other space where she reveals details about herself regularly: social media. Public records filled in a few more facts.
Here’s what we could gather about Sarah Palin’s life these days: She lives, at least most of the time, in the same house on Lake Lucille in Wasilla that the family has occupied for more than a decade. She applies for a Permanent Fund dividend every year, which would indicate she spends the majority of the year in Alaska. She voted, absentee, in the 2020 presidential election from Alaska, according to Division of Elections records.
Todd and Sarah’s divorce was finalized last year. He has recently purchased land in the Big Lake area, according to property records.
The Palin kids have grown up and into adult lives of their own: Bristol is a real estate agent in the Austin, Texas, area with an Instagram following bigger than her mother’s. Willow has twins and a salon in the Mat-Su. Piper has pursued nursing school. Trig, born when Palin was governor, is now in high school. It’s not clear what Track is up to but court records show all of the criminal cases against him as resolved.
Though her SarahPAC closed in 2017, Sarah still maintains a national profile traveling to speak for conservative causes and candidates. Most recently, she was in Texas for Turning Points USA’s Young Women’s Leadership Summit, for a speech that promised “her signature zingers” as well as “homespun stories of everyday Americans.” She also has an ongoing federal lawsuit against The New York Times, which she says libeled her by suggesting she played a role in inspiring a 2011 mass shooting in Arizona. Her website, sarahpalin.com, is still a productive content farm, churning out a half-dozen pieces of byline-free clickbait daily. On Facebook, 4.5 million people follow her.
And then there’s Cameo, the site where people can buy custom videos from an array of celebrities ranging from Tony Hawk to Fran Drescher to Sarah Palin.
At a rate of $199 per video, Palin has filmed hundreds of messages, usually from her front yard on Lake Lucille, wearing mirrored aviators, her signature updo intact. She wishes aunts happy birthday and husbands happy retirement, sometimes uttering those self-deprecating lines about being able to see something from her house. Cameo seems to be a major Palin side hustle, which is something considering her speakers agency boasts she charges a fee of $100,000 to $200,000 for an appearance.
These days, her main form of communication is through her rather unfiltered social media pages, especially Instagram, where she appears to write her posts herself.
Much of the content could be categorized as classic Instagram mom and grandma: Digital scrapbooks of pictures of her granddaughters playing outside, set to an Uncle Kracker song, a proud mom montage of Trig at what looks like a Wasilla high school track meet, even an Instagram influencer moment in which she hawked a detox tea her daughter Bristol had been promoting. She’s liberal — in her use of emojis.
Palin has been almost entirely absent from Alaska politics. The administration of Gov. Mike Dunleavy — a fellow Wasillan — said she hasn’t reached out.
But last fall, she lobbed a grenade by posting a video of herself, mid-yardwork, in which she directly addressed U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, suggesting she was considering running for her seat in 2022.
“This is my house,” she said. “This is my house,” she repeated, intoning different syllables.
“I’m willing to give it up for the greater good of this country ... this state.”
Fans — and not fans — jumped in to debate her strength as a potential candidate. Alaska Republican Party leaders say they have heard nothing from her.
Once, last September, she wrote about driving down Big Lake Road and spotting a sign for a Trump rally, being held down a dirt road at a hockey rink. She spontaneously went, she said. In her own verging-on-spoken-word poetry style, she described something that sounded like a moment of introspection about where she is, and what it feels like:
“Thought of my past Presidential/VP rallies back East (some 60,000 strong!) and aimed for these independent, patriotic, FED UP workhorses all committed to making America GREAT! Readied myself for any anti-Deplorable-ites who don’t have the cajones to be in the arena but live to see fighters fall ... and in my case jab that this “has-been” is HERE - not THERE with swamp dwellers pining for the next cocktail party invite to hobnob with elites trying to control you,” she wrote. “But alas! No loud-mouths this night to have to teach: ‘rejection is protection’ & there’s a season & reason for everything.”
• • •