It's not a well-kept secret in Alaska that former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has a longstanding rivalry with Andrew Halcro, an Anchorage businessman and blogger who ran against Palin as an independent candidate in the three-way Alaska gubernatorial race in 2006. After he lost, Halcro was extremely critical of her signature pieces of oil and gas legislation. He was also the one who broke what was to be known as the "Troopergate" scandal on his blog.
Palin took it all very personally. She even went as far as to write about him in her book, "Going Rogue," a fact that Halcro subsequently had fun with in a dramatic reading of the passages in which he is mentioned.
Her reaction is perhaps not a surprise. If the 24,000-plus pages of emails show nothing else, they paint a picture of how much Palin and her administration were sensitive to public criticism. A simple letter to the editor could elicit a long chain of responses—responses that could go on for days. But criticism from Halcro seemed to rise to another level. Halcro's name appears time and again in the email dump. They show that Palin read his blog and his newspaper columns and listened to him on the radio with particular interest. In her fight against him, she drew many in her administration into the battle, including Gov. Sean Parnell, who was then lieutenant governor.
At various times she called Halco simply a liar, then a "sinful liar," a "lying $+*#" and a "dumbass." It went on. She goaded her staff to respond to his criticism. "We're still too nice in response to Halcro," she wrote. Another staffer, Ivy Frye, agreed. She said that it was time to take the gloves off. "If Halcro is going to be your biggest critic, I'll happily be his," she wrote in Jan. 2008. As late as Feb. 2008, five months before she ran for vice president, Palin was afraid that Halcro had a spy in her meetings, and was getting information from the oil companies to combat her legislative efforts.
Parnell thought so too, and did enough research into Halcro's background to find that his brother-in-law was a BP executive.
In all of the many personalities which unfold in the email narrative, Parnell's is among the most opaque. This might be because much of what he had written is redacted in the dump, or it might be that he had the good sense not to let his personality show through in his emails. But a reader can get a glimmer of him in at least one of his emails through his research of Halcro.
"I don't know how I missed it but I'm told Halcro's brother-in-law is this high ranking exec at BP (thought you might know how he must get some of his information)," Parnell wrote on Feb. 1, 2008. Parnell then pasted a bio into the email he had found of Halcro's brother-in-law.
Palin responded by urging her staff, particularly Frank Bailey, to pass on the information. "Blogs, Ear, the works," she wrote referring to the Anchorage Daily News gossip column. "Feel free to let Alaskans' know."
She did tell them, however, to keep Parnell's name out of it. "He wouldn't want the connection," she wrote.
But it's the personal criticism, more than policy, that really seemed to rile her up.
In February, for example, Halcro wrote a blog post accusing Palin of using her security detail to shuttle her kids to and from school. Her reply to her staff was nearly 600 words, comparing what security did and did not do for her kids compared to other governors and ending with how fiscally responsible she is. "Security drops off the kids only when I can't... and a clearer picture is this: Piper is in the car with me, with security - sometimes I get dropped off first, sometimes she gets dropped off first - it's all one loop of a drive in the mornings." It goes on.
In another email, she guessed that Halcro was setting himself up to take another stab at political office. "It'll be fun to watch the train wreck if/when [Halcro] runs!" she wrote.
Contact Austin Baird at austin(at)alaskadispatch.com.