Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Sarah Palin had belonged to the Alaskan Independence Party in the early 1990s instead of the Republican Party. The AIP now exists mostly as a fringe political party, but had been mainstream enough in 1994 that their gubernatorial candidate had attracted 38% of the vote. Later, though, the party appeared to emphasize an effort to explore options regarding secession and independence.
Now, however, the McCain campaign blog McCain Report states that New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller simply made it up:
While the press scrambles to report on the process by which Governor Palin was offered the second spot on the Republican ticket, New York Times reporter Elisabeth Bumiller has opted instead to make up her own version of events. As the AP reports, “Sarah Palin voluntarily told John McCain’s campaign about her pregnant teenage daughter and her husband’s 2-decade-old DUI arrest during questioning as part of the Republican’s vice presidential search, the lawyer who conducted the background review said.” Yet according to Bumiller, yesterday’s disclosures “called into question” how thoroughly Governor Palin had been vetted. Why the discrepancy? It seems one reporter actually reported the story, while Bumiller made up her own. …
And Bumiller writes that Governor Palin “was a member for two years in the 1990s of the Alaska Independence Party.” Not true, and unsourced. Governor Palin has been a registered Republican since 1982.
I’m not aware that Bumiller reported on this story, but she’s not the only one who did so. Jake Tapper, generally regarded as a balanced and careful political reporter, also reported on the story yesterday. Lynnette Clark, an AIP official, went on record with ABC at least to make this allegation, such as it was. Given that, it hardly seems accurate to call it “unsourced” or to focus one’s ire on Bumiller, at least in this case.
Tapper also contacted the McCain campaign, though, who provided documentation to refute the allegation:
A day after ABC News requested a response from Palin as to whether she was ever a member of the AIP, McCain campain spox Brian Rogers told ABC News that Clark’s “allegations are false.”
“Governor Palin has been a registered Republican since 1982,” Rogers says, providing some voter registration documentation showing her to be a Republican. “As you know, if she changed her registration, there would have been some record of it. There isn’t.”
Rogers says the McCain campaign provided ABC News with all the voter registration information that exists. Rogers says that Palin didn’t attend the AIP convention in 1994, “but she visited them when they had their convention in Wasilla in 2000 as a courtesy since she was mayor.”
He would not comment as to why AIP officials are so convinced Palin was a member of their party. When asked if Palin ever identified herself as a member of the AIP, Rogers said, “No, she’s a lifelong Republican.”
Sarah Palin never belonged to the AIP. That’s the bottom line. Instead of making this argument about Bumiller, the McCain report would be better served by pointing the finger at Lynette Clark, who is obviously so desperate for attention that she exploited Palin’s newfound fame to get her 15 minutes in the limelight.
Update: I got a PDF copy of the documentation showing Palin to have remained Republican her entire adult life. Even I don’t pass that test; I flirted with the Libertarian Party briefly in 1992, but wound up voting Republican anyway in the presidential election.