$15 million for emails***

$15 MILLION FOR EMAILS…. Those must be some extraordinary emails.

Sarah Palin’s office has discovered a renewable resource to bring millions of dollars into Alaska’s economy: the governor’s e-mails.

The office of the Republican vice-presidential nominee has quoted prices as high as $15 million for copies of state e-mails requested by news organizations and citizens. No matter what the price, most of the e-mails of Palin, her senior staff and other state employees won’t be made public until at least several weeks after the Nov. 4 presidential election, her office told msnbc.com on Thursday.

How did the cost reach $15 million? Let’s look at a typical request. When the Associated Press asked for all state e-mails sent to the governor’s husband, Todd Palin, her office said it would take up to six hours of a programmer’s time to assemble the e-mail of just a single state employee, then another two hours for “security” checks, and finally five hours to search the e-mail for whatever word or topic the requestor is seeking. At $73.87 an hour, that’s $960.31 for a single e-mail account. And there are 16,000 full-time state employees. The cost quoted to the AP: $15,364,960.

And that’s not including the copying costs. Although the e-mails are stored electronically in Microsoft Outlook and on backup servers, and although a blank CD-ROM costs only 41 cents at Capital Office Supply in Juneau, the governor’s office says it can provide copies only on paper.

Why? Because lawyers need printouts so they can black out, or “redact,” private or exempted information. That task is more difficult because Palin and her senior staff have used government e-mail accounts for some personal correspondence, and personal e-mail accounts for much of their government correspondence. The photocopies of those printouts will be a relative bargain, only 10 cents a page. A state administrator said he understood that such redaction could be done electronically, but that state offices weren’t set up to do that.

Sometimes, when a controversial public figure burdened by an ethics scandal acts like she has something to hide, it’s because she has something to hide.

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Steve Benen

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.