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 Alaska governor also greatly detailed the dismissal of the state’s public safety commissioner that has touched off a legislative investigation.
Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., the lawyer who conducted the background review, told The Associated Press in an interview Monday that Palin underwent a "full and complete" background examination before McCain chose her as his running mate. Asked whether everything that came up as a possible red flag during the review already has been made public, Culvahouse said: "I think so. Yah, I think so. Correct."
McCain’s campaign has been trying to tamp down questions about whether the Arizona senator adequately researched his surprise vice presidential selection or whether he chose the first-term governor without fully looking into her background.
Since McCain publicly disclosed his running mate on Friday, the notion of a shoddy, rushed review has been stoked repeatedly.
First, a campaign-issued timeline said McCain initially met Palin in February, then held one phone conversation with her last week before inviting her to Arizona, where he met with her a second time and offered her the job Thursday.
Then came the campaign’s disclosure that Palin’s unmarried 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, was pregnant. The father is Levi Johnston, who has been a hockey player at Bristol’s high school, The New York Post and The New York Daily News reported in their Tuesday editions.
In addition, the campaign also disclosed that Todd Palin, then age 22, was arrested in 1986 in Alaska for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Shortly after Palin was named to the ticket, McCain’s campaign dispatched a team of a dozen communications operatives and lawyers to Alaska. That fueled speculation that a comprehensive examination of Palin’s record and past was incomplete and being done only after she was placed on the ticket.
Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser, said no matter who the nominee was, the campaign was ready to send a "jump team" to the No. 2’s home state to work with the nominee’s staff, work with the local media and help handle requests from the national media for information, and answer questions about documents that were part of the review.
At several points throughout the process, McCain’s team warned Palin that the scrutiny into her private life would be intense and that there was nothing she could do to prepare for it.
Culvahouse disclosed details of his examination in a half-hour interview with the AP.
First, a team of some 25 people working under Culvahouse culled information from public sources for Palin and other prospective candidates without their knowledge. For all, news reports, speeches, financial and tax return disclosures, litigation, investigations, ethical charges, marriages and divorces were reviewed.
For Palin specifically, the team studied online archives of the state’s largest newspapers, including the Anchorage Daily News, but didn’t request paper archives for Palin’s hometown newspaper. "I made the decision that we could not get it done and maintain secrecy," Culvahouse said.
Reports, 40-some pages and single-spaced, on each candidate then were reviewed by McCain, Schmidt, campaign manager Rick Davis and top advisers Mark Salter and Charlie Black.
Among the details McCain’s campaign found: Palin had once received a citation for fishing without a license.
Palin, like others on the short list, then was sent a personal data questionnaire with 70 "very intrusive" questions, Culvahouse said. She also was asked to submit a number of years of federal and state tax returns, as well as any controversial articles she had written or interviews she had done. The campaign also checked her credit.
Then, Culvahouse conducted a nearly three-hour-long interview.
He said the first thing she volunteered was that her daughter was pregnant, and she also quickly disclosed her husband’s DUI arrest.
Early on, the public search unearthed details of the investigation by the Republican-controlled legislature into the possibility that Palin ordered the dismissal of Alaska’s public safety commissioner because he would not fire her former brother-in-law as a state trooper.
Culvahouse said that he asked follow-up questions during the interview, and "spent a lot of time with her lawyer" on the matter.
"We came out of it knowing all that we could know at the time," he said.
As for the financial records review, Culvahouse said: "It was very clean. We had no issues there."
Throughout the process, the campaign said, Davis had multiple conversations with Palin.