“As Alaska Turns”: The Vetting of Sarah Palin Part II

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Palin’s husband, Todd, the so-called “first dude.” It’s been reported out of Juneau that he is known as the “shadow governor,” and that
he routinely was copied on confidential e-mails sent by his wife and other state officials and that he often sat in on confidential government meetings.

[Election 2008]



No sooner had I filed my story on the “Private and Public Infidelities”
of Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin than I received word from Alaska
that there was an even more sordid twist to the charges being made in the
National Enquirer about l’affaire Sarah.

As I said in my previous report, I didn’t really care whether or not Palin had
an affair a decade ago with her husband’s former business partner, Brad Hanson,
as I’ve been told the National Enquirer will make public this week. If it were private,
that was her business.

But as I also noted, Palin has an uncanny track record of making private matters
among her family and friends public. Regularly. There is a troubling pattern here,
one that observers in Alaska say was not fully vetted by the Republicans and John McCain.
She and her extended family provide a daily soap opera in the Last Frontier:
As Alaska Turns.

A lot of this drama is centered on Palin’s husband, Todd, the so-called “first dude.”
It’s been reported out of Juneau that he is known as the “shadow governor,” and that
he routinely was copied on confidential e-mails sent by his wife and other state officials and
that he often sat in on confidential government meetings.

This is where the line between that which is private and that which is public blurs.
And where there is a strange nexus between Sarah Palin’s alleged affair with Hanson
and yet another firing of a close political associate by Palin.

As I noted, it was originally speculated in Alaska that Palin’s alleged affair had taken place
with Scott Alan Richter, with whom the Palins own remote property in Big Lake, Alaska, along
with his ex-wife Deborah Marie “Debbie” Richter (nee Ribelin), who served as Palin’s campaign
treasurer. She was subsequently rewarded by Palin as the Director of the Alaska Permanent
Fund Dividend Division.

Only three days ago, Scott Richter filed court papers, public under Alaskan law, to have his divorce
records sealed. His “emergency motion” was denied. People in Alaska immediately assumed he was
trying to hide documentation of an affair with Palin.

I called the Ricther story a “smoke screen.” But it wasn’t a smoke screen. It was another affair—and,
this time, a very public one, with legal and political implications.

It wasn’t Scott Richter who had an affair—it was his wife, Debbie. And she was having her affair with
Palin’s chief liaison to the Alaskan legislature, John W. Bitney.

Bitney, who once owned a public relations firm in Palmer, Alaska, was a childhood friend of Palin’s.
They had both grown up in Wasilla and played in the high school band class together. Bitney built up an
impressive political resume of his own, working with several Alaska legislators, before serving as a lobbyist
for the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation from 1996 to 2002. He joined Palin’s campaign team and
then was named her legislative liaison in December of 2006.

But when the Palins found out about his affair with Richter, Todd Palin was livid. In July of 2007, Bitney
was sacked immediately and unceremoniously. According to Bitney, he was driving to work one morning
when his government-issued Blackberry service was cut off.

That’s how Palin “notified” him.

People in Alaska were shocked and angered by the firing. But no one in Palin’s inner circle raised a stink
about it out of fear that they would get the hatchet next.

The public explanation that Palin’s office gave for Bitney’s departure was for “personal reasons” and that it
was “amicable.” Another Palin lie; another Palin cover-up.

Bitney soon took a job with the Alaska Speaker of the House, John Harris (R-Valdez), to conduct research
on legislative and budget issues. Harris issued a strong statement in support of the hiring:  “John Bitney has
extensive experience with the Legislature, having worked for many years for the late Rep. Ron Larson, former
Rep. Terry Martin, and others. John’s intimate knowledge of state budgets, as well as his recent experience
advocating for the Governor’s gas pipeline bill, will be very helpful in the process going forward into the
coming legislative sessions.”

But according to sources, the Palins and Scott Richter dogged him in that job, too, trying to pressure Harris
to get rid of him. Harris resisted. Bitney still has his job.

The Palins’ interference into the private lives of their once close associates did not end the romance. According
to the Juneau Empire, Bitney and Richter (Ribelin) took out a marriage license in Juneau this past month and
were married on August 23 at a fishing camp in Soldotna, Alaska. Speaker Harris officiated.

Sarah and Todd Palin were not invited.


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Black Star News columnist and wward-winning filmmaker/journalist Geoffrey Dunn, Ph. D., is the former recipient of both a John L. Senior Fellowship to the Cornell University Graduate School of Government and a National Newspaper Association Award for Investigative Journalism. His most recent film is Calypso Dreams. Part I of his investigative report on Sarah Palin can be found here:  http://www.blackstarnews.com/?c=135&a=4855

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