Palin camp claims records suit “sexist … demeaning”

Thomas Van Flein, Sarah Palin’s personal lawyer, has taken to the former governor’s Facebook page to announce a victory in a lawsuit seeking email traffic between the Governor and her husband Todd.

The party seeking the email traffic had argued that Todd Palin, who held no paid position with state government during his wife’s tenure, was a mere private citizen, meaning that emails to him from government accounts, including his wife’s, deserved no protection from disclosure under the Alaska Public Records Act. Van Flein successfully argued that Todd Palin’s status as First Gentleman meant that he was functionally an adviser to the Governor, and that his emails deserved privilege under a provision that allows the governor to receive advice from staff in confidence.

And while Van Flein claims that the lawsuit was “sexist” and “demeaning” since it was “implicitly premised on the idea that a male spouse must somehow exert too much influence over a female chief executive,” his very own post shows that scrutiny’s been applied to spouses of both genders. Take a look:

In so doing, the court concluded that Todd Palin, as the First Gentleman, though unpaid, was in essence a privileged consultant to the Office of the Governor, and the court compared Todd Palin’s privileged consultations to First Lady Hillary Clinton, in which a federal court determined that the chief executive’s spouse “acts as the functional equivalent of an assistant to the President.” …

It is refreshing to see a court resort to common sense and historical precedent. Further, as more and more women get elected to high office (What are they called now? – “Mama Grizzlies”?), it is notable that challenges such as this, which were based on sexist notions and demeaning attitudes towards women, are being rejected. This suit challenged Todd Palin’s role as a first spouse and was implicitly premised on the idea that a male spouse must somehow exert too much influence over a female chief executive. Hence the demand to “see those emails” from Todd Palin; but contrast this with decades of silence relative to communications to prior executive spouses – female spouses.

It’s hard to square Van Flein’s insistence in that last paragraph that female executive officer’s husbands, like Todd Palin, are targeted by records requests out of sexism with his favorable mentioning of a federal court decision in a case seeking the records of Hillary Clinton, a wife of a male political executive who was subject to a costly court battle over a records request.

Hillary Clinton is a woman, ya know?

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.