TODD PALIN KEEPS BUSY…. I almost skipped the Washington Post’s front-page profile on Sarah Palin’s husband, Todd Palin, afraid it would be a dull, personality piece about the man some have labeled the “First Dude.” But I’m glad I went back to take another look, because it’s actually an interesting piece about an unelected official, in an unofficial, ceremonial role, taking on state responsibilities without the benefit of accountability.

Todd Palin grew up as the archetypal Alaskan — salmon fisherman, champion snowmobiler, North Slope oil worker. But since his wife became governor 20 months ago, his portfolio has broadened: househusband, babysitter, senior adviser, legislative liaison, and — when the occasion warrants — enforcer and protector.

He has supervised renovations to the governor’s mansion and hopscotched by plane back and forth to Juneau to juggle duties as father and “First Dude,” as he has come to be known. And to a degree that has surprised many state government observers, Todd Palin also has become involved in policy, sitting in on his wife’s meetings, traveling on state business and weighing in on some legislative issues.

John Harris, the Republican speaker of the Alaska House, said he had never been called by the spouse of a governor before the two calls he got from Todd Palin. One was to argue for moving the state capital to Anchorage. The other was to ask Harris to “keep an eye” on a key aide who had an affair with the wife of one of Todd’s best friends.

Political hands in both parties say the Palins are often referred to as a team — “Sarah and Todd” — and one Democratic lawmaker said Todd Palin has become her “de facto chief of staff.”

Yes, Todd Palin has been surprisingly busy as the spouse of the governor. He decided to do some informal lobbying on state fisheries issues, intervened on behalf of some local dairy farms, sat in on budget meetings with the leadership of the state legislature, and, of course, had some controversial discussions with Walt Monegan, the former state public safety commissioner.

Getting a sense of exactly how much work Todd Palin does in the Palin administration is difficult — Sarah Palin refuses to release materials detailing Todd Palin-related communications, and the McCain campaign decided last week that he would refuse to honor a subpoena issues as part of the governor’s Trooopergate scandal. (Tom Schaller added, “Sounds like a lot of parochial, self-interested politics covered with a thick layer of nondisclosure and secrecy — just the sort of thing John McCain hates about politics!”)

Michelle Cottle noted that Todd Palin sounds an awful lot like Hillary Clinton circa 1992, involving himself in his spouse’s governing duties without any oversight or accountability.

“Todd sits in on high-level meetings,” Cottle said. “He’s copied on official emails. He offers counsel on a wide range of issues. He travels on state business (often at taxpayer expense). He even unofficially lobbies lawmakers and outside interest groups on matters of importance to him. But because all of this is done under the auspices of his personal rather than professional relationship with Governor Sarah, the good citizens of the state have no real sense what Todd is up to.”

The right seemed to mind all of this a lot more when it was “Bill and Hillary” instead of “Sarah and Todd.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.