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McCain Campaign Sends A Dozen Communications Operatives, Lawyers To Alaska

LIZ SIDOTI | September 1, 2008 08:40 PM EST | AP

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Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's daughters from left, Piper, Willow and Bristol are seen Dec. 8, 2006, at the Governor's mansion, in Juneau, Alaska. John McCain's running mate Sarah Palin said Monday, Sept. 1, 2008, that her 17-year-old unmarried daughter is five months pregnant, an announcement campaign aides said was aimed at rebutting Internet rumors that Palin's youngest son, born in April, was actually her daughter's. (AP Photo/Juneau Empire,Brian Wallace)* * MAGS OUT, NO SALES

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Sarah Palin's path to the Republican ticket started with her name on a list _ and a team of some 25 people poring through public records searching for trouble spots without her knowledge. Then came the 70-question survey and a nearly three-hour interview.

The review officially ended Thursday, when John McCain asked the Alaska governor to be his running mate.

In the days since, Republicans and Democrats have privately questioned whether the Arizona senator chose the first-term governor without fully looking into her background. McCain's campaign has vehemently defended the review.

Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., the lawyer who conducted the review, told The Associated Press in an interview Monday that Palin underwent a "full and complete" examination before McCain chose her. Asked whether everything that came up as a possible red flag during the review already has been made public, Culvahouse said: "I think so. Yeah, I think so. Correct."

Stoking the notion of a rushed examination, a timeline issued by the campaign indicated that McCain initially met Palin in February, then held one phone conversation with her last week before inviting her to Arizona, where he met with her a second time and offered her the job.

Raising additional questions was the campaign's disclosure Monday that Palin's unmarried 17-year-old daughter was pregnant, and reports that Palin's husband, Todd, had been arrested in 1986, when he was 22, for driving under the influence of alcohol.

McCain's campaign has dispatched a team of a dozen communications operatives and lawyers to Alaska.

Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser, said the campaign always planned to send a "jump team" to the eventual running mate's home state to work with the nominee's staff, help with information requests from local and national reporters, and answer questions about documents that were part of the review.

Culvahouse said Palin's review, like others, began with a team of two dozen people culling information from public sources. The team reviewed speeches, financial records, tax information, litigation, investigations, ethical charges, marriages and divorces, for a number of potential running mates.

For Palin specifically, the team studied online archives of the state's largest newspapers, including the Anchorage Daily News, but didn't request paper archives for Palin's hometown newspaper for fear the secret review would become public.

Among the findings: Palin had once received a citation for fishing without a license.

Reports on each candidate _ 40-some pages and single spaced _ then were reviewed by McCain, Schmidt, campaign manager Rick Davis, and top advisers Mark Salter and Charlie Black.

Palin then was sent a personal data questionnaire with 70 "very intrusive" questions, Culvahouse said. She also was asked to submit a number of years of federal and state tax returns. The campaign also checked her credit.

Culvahouse then conducted a nearly three-hour interview. He said the first thing Palin volunteered was that her daughter was pregnant, and she also quickly disclosed her husband's two-decade-old DUI arrest.

The public search also unearthed details of the Legislature's investigation into the dismissal of Alaska's public safety commissioner, allegedly because he would not fire Palin's former brother-in-law as a state trooper.

Culvahouse said he asked follow-up questions, and "spent a lot of time with her lawyer" on the matter.

"We came out of it knowing all that we could know at the time," he said.

Throughout the process, the campaign said, Davis had multiple conversations with Palin.

Filed by Katharine Zaleski  |  Report Corrections