September 2nd, 2008
05:50 PM ET
2 years ago

McCain camp defends VP vetting process on Palin

McCain's camp defends vetting process, stating only one red flag came up.
McCain's camp defends vetting process, stating only one red flag came up.

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (CNN) - John McCain insisted Tuesday his vice presidential vetting process was thorough, as his campaign tried to calm concern that more surprises about Sarah Palin were coming.

To that end, a source intimately involved in McCain's VP vetting process called CNN to give an account of her background check.

This official said a 25-person team, led by Washington attorney A.B. Culvahouse, started by compiling reports on 20 top VP contenders, using only public documents like disclosure forms, public records, newspaper articles, and interview transcripts.

That information was eventually presented to McCain, and to top campaign advisers Mark Salter, Steve Schmidt, Charlie Black and Rick Davis, the only four aides involved in the highly secretive process.

Once McCain and those aides narrowed the choices to a short list, Palin and other contenders were contacted and asked for documents a credit check, a call for tax returns, and additional financial disclosure forms.

The official tells CNN that all of those on the short list – including Palin – were asked to answer 70 “intrusive” questions, including: Have you ever paid for sex? Have you ever been fairly or unfairly accused of sexual harassment? The questions were also described as some basic queries now asked of presidential nominees, like whether or not they ever hired illegal workers or neglected to pay taxes for nannies.

In one of her answers, Palin told McCain aides about her husbands DUI arrest 22 years ago.

Then, Culvahouse himself, along with a few associates, interviewed Palin for three hours. During that interview, she revealed her teenage daughter's pregnancy - and was warned it would become public if she were picked. "She said she'd have those conversations with her daughter," the official familiar with the conversation tells CNN.

From the start of the vetting process, one red flag was a state investigation into whether Palin improperly dismissed Alaska’s Public Safety Commissioner for not firing her ex-brother-in-law.

CNN has been told McCain investigators spent considerable time looking into the so-called “Troopergate” affair - interviewing Palin's lawyer, and quietly talking to others involved - and decided the facts were on her side.

This source, who was intimately involved in vetting Palin, admitted that aside from interviewing some of the figures involved in Troopergate, they did not talk to character witnesses in Alaska, and did not look at clips about her from the newspaper in her hometown of Wasilla, because it is kept on microfilm and was hard to view without compromising their secrecy.

CNN is told that Culvahouse, one of Washington’s widely respected power lawyers, was called by McCain one last time before he officially asked Palin to join him on the Republican ticket. The presumptive Republican nominee asked Culvahouse if, based on what he unearthed, he was confident the little-known Alaska governor's background would withstand scrutiny – and was given a confident go-ahead by the attorney.

But it is unclear whether Culvahouse gave McCain any political advice on whether Palin is a qualified or wise choice, or left that to the small group of political advisers involved.

The McCain camp would not reveal precisely when this vetting process had taken place, how long they had spent on it, or who else was vetted.

However, sources close to Independent Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney tell CNN they were all put through at least the first stage of short list vetting.

McCain himself only met Palin in person once, at a National Governors Association meeting in February of 2008, and spoke with her by phone on another occasion two days before bringing her to Arizona to offer her a spot on the GOP ticket.


Filed under: John McCain • Sarah Palin
soundoff (129 Responses)
  1. Enlightened Voter

    And I quote, “Only in Republican America would a black man with a law degree from Harvard, 12 years in politics, four years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and manager of one of the most impressively flawless and forward thinking presidential campaigns ever not be ready for the presidency while a white female evangelical with 19 months in national politics and a bachelors in journalism is considered ‘ready on day one’.”

    September 2, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  2. Anita

    It is sad that this is the best that the republicans could come up with!

    NO PRESIDENT PALIN! NO HOW, NO WAY!

    September 2, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  3. Capt. Smash, Salt Lake City, Utah

    In a Washington Post interview, Karl Rove admits that the Sarah Palin pick was "not a governing decision but a campaign decision." Of course, he says Joe Biden was too.

    They (Democrats) over played this from the first moment. When they put out that statement bashing her. This is everyone. This is mom, the successful small business operator, union member, outdoors woman, coach, mom of five, active in her community and takes on the big boys and becomes Governor. And they run a real risk of looking condescending, just as they did, the same crowd played these cards against Hillary Clinton, and it was a mistake.
    ...

    This is a positive thing for McCain. It's a bold move, but it's also a smart political move. Now, it's a different kind of decision. ... Both candidates this year, ironically enough made not a governing decision but a campaign decision.

    September 2, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  4. American

    Leave it to the republicans to defend a decision based on poor intelligence, incomplete research, political motivations rather than national interests and an all around poor choice.

    September 2, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  5. Jake McCusker

    Is Ms. Palin the first parent in the U.S. to have a 17 year old daughter get pregnant?

    Why don't the Media get off of her and get to the real issues.

    September 2, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  6. no joke, boston

    govenor palin,

    you're being used like a dummy by the GOP / neo-con masters

    against your own political interst, and

    against your own family's personal interest.

    your voice,if any different from the repug – neocon line, will never be respected by the GOP thugs, and

    if you're no different from them, you add nothing to their thuggery.

    go back home, and go moose hunting or do anything productive.

    September 2, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  7. JEEBS

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    "...did not look at clips about her from the newspaper in her hometown of Wasilla, because it is kept on microfilm and was hard to view without compromising their secrecy."

    This is for the VP of the USA. I think it might have been worth the effort!!!

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    September 2, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  8. undecided in ohio

    how can she be first nurse to McCain when her babies and her babies' babies are still nursing?

    September 2, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  9. Felice Judkins

    Enlightend Voter, your post says it all. Could not have said it better. What a shame and sad commentary on the Republican party

    September 2, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  10. Brian

    Why is Lincoln's party supporting the wife of a Secessionist???????

    Republicans are you more Pro-Life than American? Where is your Patriotism????? Todd Palin and his AIP beliefs do NOT belong in our capital!

    September 2, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  11. RB from NH

    Enlightened Voter......AMEN!

    September 2, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  12. KG

    The problem is Obama hasn't been properly vetted. Zero experience, so little backbone and capability to make a stand that he voted "present" 70% of the time, and he's a liberal socialist who doesn't believe in the founding principles of this country. You want to talk about a risk to this nation and somebody who truly needs to be vettted. Look at Obama. Vet him then forget him.

    September 2, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  13. Hillary Supporter

    Jake,

    She loses on the "real issues"

    September 2, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  14. Gal, Ohio

    Defend all you want...if that is the type of job you do I don't want you representing me in the Whitehouse.

    September 2, 2008 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  15. Mary

    I think by McCain selecting Palin as his choice just made it that much easier for Democrats to win.
    Go Obama!!!

    September 2, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  16. Andrew

    This is a real issue when your POLITCAL stance is abstinace only education, and your own daughter fails to follow it.

    Do as I say, not as I do....the Republican Mantra.

    September 2, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  17. Nadeem

    If McCain vetted her he did a poor job. To put this family in the national spotlight with everthing going on, down syndrome child, teenage pregancy, brother-in-law taser, dismisal, was just not fair for the Palin. McCain shold have known this if he knw the facts.

    September 2, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  18. Gloria

    Yeh -right..and I will bet that mccain also has some ocean front property in arizona that he would like to sell.

    September 2, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  19. Tim

    Yeah right. This speaks directly to McCains judgement or lack there of.

    September 2, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  20. Donna

    Agreed. I think we need to move on to all the other points about Palin and what's she's been up to in Alaska.

    And there's plenty of it.

    She needs to resign now.

    September 2, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  21. Felly

    This is about judgement. Even Paris Hilton can do better than McCain and his brigade of vetters.

    September 2, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  22. Alameda Chris

    Sounds like their vetting process is about as involved as renting a house.

    September 2, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  23. bex

    It's hard to believe that out of 20 vetted contenders that Palin was the most qualified.

    September 2, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  24. NoMcSame

    Just like the maverick that I remember, a crappy car that was good for nothing that the ownwers even hated. Sounds like mcSame to me. If GWBush is happy about a pick, LOOK OUT.
    Can you say OIL, POW, OIL, POW, OIL, POW.
    Obama08

    September 2, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  25. Mario

    The issue is: She doesn't support sex education, she doesn't support contraceptives. She believes in abstinence bur her teen kid is pregnant. This is a failure, and a big deal for a national policy.

    September 2, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6