PALMER, Alaska—The liberal blogosphere was abuzz Friday with news that a friend of Sarah and Todd Palin had tried to seal his divorce records.
Surely, the netroots speculated, that friend must be the unnamed business partner who this week’s number of the National Enquirer alleges—without proof so far—was romantically linked to Palin. The McCain campaign's characterization of the story as a "vicious lie" seemed to only fuel more speculation.
And then the moment of truth, as the motion to seal was denied.
The filings, housed in a district courthouse in this town about eight miles east of the Palin’s hometown of Wasilla, contained a lot of hot news—presuming, that is, you’re interested in the child-custody agreement reached by Scott Richter and his ex-wife Deborah Richter, or in the former couple's holdings, which include a recreational property that Scott owns with Sarah and Todd Palin.
That hasn’t stopped a stream of journalists and couriers from NBC, the Los Angeles Times, Court TV and other outlets (including this reporter, presently serving as Politico’s Alaskan bureau) from making their way to the Palmer courthouse to photocopy, for 25 cents a page, the 75 or so pages in the Richters’ marriage dissolution file.
Hence, Scott Richter’s motion this week to seal the file, in which he wrote, “I am friends an (sic) landowners in a remote cabin property with (the Palins) and as her campaign moves forward, my phone #’s and addresses are being used thru this file to obtain unwanted contact daily. My cabin life and private life is extremely important to me and my young son, who find ourselves and our lives disrupted by such contact.”
The judge was not sympathetic, writing in a Thursday ruling “there is no legal basis for the request.”
(For the record, Richter, who valued the property he co-owns with the Palins at $12,000, did not return messages left by Politico Northwest at the phone numbers listed in the records.)
Those who couldn’t make it to the Palmer courthouse in person were out of luck for much of Friday, since the court’s website crashed from all the traffic directed to it by a link on Andrew Sulivan’s blog.
The Palin sleuthing in and around Wasilla is getting a little ridiculous, said T.C. Mitchell, an Anchorage Daily News reporter who covers Wasilla and Palmer and was waiting in the Palmer courthouse clerk’s office to make copies of the Richters’ file. He had been there earlier in the day and inspected the most pertinent parts, but wanted to make sure he didn’t miss a peripheral detail and get scooped by the suddenly ubiquitous national press.
Mitchell said the Daily News received a call from a media outlet seeking the rules of the Miss Wasilla Pageant, presumably to determine whether Palin cheated when she won it in 1984.
There’s a growing backlash in and around Wasilla to the prying of the national media into the life of their native daughter and her family.
As journalists from ABC News—and, of course, Politico—on Wednesday leafed through bound copies of the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman at the local newspaper’s Wasilla office looking for a 1996 story detailing then-Mayor Palin’s conversations with the local librarian about censorship, Frontiersman reporter Michael Rovito said he was not going to write about the pregnancy of Palin’s 17-year-old daughter Bristol.
He and another local reporter swapped notes on all the media outlets bombarding them with Palin inquiries, including some from as far as France.
Though some folks in Wasilla brag about how many media calls they’ve gotten in much the same manner that delegates to the national conventions showed off pins they collected, most folks seem to welcome the attention about as much as Scott Richter.
Stopped outside Wasilla’s post office on a blusteryafternoon this week, Cynthia Shoemaker said “people in Alaska want to give the national media a mouthful” for scrutinizing Palin’s background. “She answers to God, not reporters,” Shoemaker said.