Richter’s scale

by Michael O. Allen on September 9, 2008

I have written a couple of times on this and I was wrong both times.

The first time, I thought Scott Richter’s emergency Alaska court filing to have his divorce papers sealed was to conceal an affair he had with the moose hunter from The Alaskan Tundra (I was not the only one but that does not absolve me of responsibility for jumping to conclusions).

The next time, taking Scott’s side, I thought he filed the action simply because he wanted privacy for himself and his son.

The Wall Street Journal today reported that the reason Richter wanted the papers sealed was to conceal that he had called Sarah Palin to tell her someone on her staff was having an affair with his wife.

Sarah Palin and John Bitney go way back. They were in the same junior-high band class. Mr. Bitney was a key aide in Gov. Palin’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign. When she took office, she gave Mr. Bitney a job as her legislative director, and a few months later stood beside him at a news conference and praised his work.

“Whatever you did, you did it right,” she told Mr. Bitney and his team.

Seven weeks later she fired Mr. Bitney for what her spokeswoman now describes as “poor job performance.”

Bitney was seriously mistaken in how close he was to Gov.  Palin, who was already upset with him for getting a divorce. The affair with Richter’s wife ticked off Palin and her husband. It turns out the Palins were even tighter with Richter:

“They were, you know, professionally my bosses, but they were my friends,” Mr. Bitney said of the Palins. “And so what caused them to want me to leave the governor’s office was my relationship, my divorce, my dating a woman with whom they had a personal relationship.”

*           *           *

Allies of Republican presidential nominee John McCain like to point out that his running mate is the governor of the largest state in the union. But at times, Alaska seems more like a small town, run by folks with overlapping professional, political and personal ties that can be difficult to untangle.

Gov. Palin and her husband, Todd Palin, were also close friends of the Richters. Ms. Richter served as treasurer of Gov. Palin’s gubernatorial campaign and her inaugural committee. After taking office, Gov. Palin put Ms. Richter in charge of the Permanent Fund Dividend Division at the Department of Revenue. The fund allocates oil revenues to Alaska residents; this year each Alaskan is expected to receive $3,269.

The two couples owned property together on Safari Lake, north of Wasilla, according to Gov. Palin’s financial disclosure reports. Each couple had its own cabin on the land, where the families would vacation side by side, according to Ms. Richter. In the most recent disclosure form, the governor reported that she and Mr. Palin now own the property with Mr. Richter alone.

The Journal story, the whole sordid mess, continues here . . .

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