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. CB

    woman? yup; NRA member? yup; anti-abortion? yup.
    Check and check!

    September 2, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  2. Desmond Sequeira

    There is no doubt in my mind that Sarah Palin is being used. That she did not see this or, seeing it, still went along, is most disturbing.

    September 2, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  3. Foreign Observer

    Vetting sounds minimal, shockingly so: basically, it comes down to google and self-report. That's the kind of guy more than 40% of Americans still seem to think can be trusted to keep this country safe?

    September 2, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  4. Joyce, ny

    If this is an example of how thorough their vetting process is, God forbid they have to make any major decisions that could affect our future.

    This is a joke and beyond ridiculous!

    September 2, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  5. Mike, TX

    Obama's selection of Biden was a much easier task than was McCain's. Obama just had to look for a grownup that knew MORE than Obama does about government. That narrowed Obama's choices to about, say, 100 million citizens.

    September 2, 2008 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  6. mK

    I will accept the McCain campaign claim that Governor Palin was thoroughly vetted. Considering that is the case, I have no doubts that Senator McCain made a horrible choice and displayed an uncanny lack of judgement.

    September 2, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  7. Flagship

    What was McCain thinking!
    There were so many other better qualified women to choose from.
    Govenor Palin has some serious baggage that is not going to go away.
    OUR GOVERNMENT IS GOING TO TURN IN TO A SOAP OPERA!!!!

    September 2, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  8. Young Voter

    Note that Barack Obama has spent less time in politics then Gov. Palin. He has never been in an office where it was necessaery to make executice decisions. Although he is a great speaker I need my President to act not just talk. Barack Obama ran for Senate and was on the foreign relations comittee purely to become president. He has had nothing else on his mind except the Oval Office. Gov. Palin has worked to better the people of her ciry and her state and ended corruption in politics. She didnt start off in politics to become famous, she joined to make a difference for people. People ask why would McCain pick a first term Govenor as VP?? What was he thinking??? Barack is a first term Senator??? What is he thinking??????

    September 2, 2008 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  9. Gary

    As an alaskan I am ashamed of the Rebuplicans like Rudy Giuliani trying to defend McCains selection of Sarah Palin and shame on america for saying it is Ok that Palin's seventeen year old daughter is pregnant. Americas leaders should be roll models for America. Sarah and her family are not roll models.
    As an Alaaskan I say McCain can have Sarah she is a miserably poor govenor and has not been good for alaskans. She has not run government well and definetely is not ready to be a heart beat away from the presidency. It is going to be hard to find someone in the state legilature that is will to give the inside scoup on Sarah but someone is there. Just read the Alaskan newspapers and you won't find too much support for Sarah. She got where she is on her good looks and not brains.

    September 2, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  10. Bill

    What mom lets her daughter go through this trauma? She's now the national postergirl for unwed teen mothers. Why is Sarah Palin letting this happen to her? There are no legitimate benefits that outweigh costs – to her daughter, that is. Obviously the driving force in decision-making in the Palin family is Sarah Palin's ego.

    September 2, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  11. Yolande

    We talk about how far we have come. What a joke!! Barack Obama is one of the greatest orators of all time dating back to Fredrick Douglas. This man was the president of the Harvard Law Review, Law degree from Harvard, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Senator, Community organizer, developed,organized and managed one of the best if not the best presidential campaigns of this century. And yet we have a problem with his experience and judgement and his ability to lead.

    Let's face it–if he was a white man with a fraction of Barack's talents the media and americans would be all over him like white on rice.

    September 2, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  12. Tjaye in LA

    This is like McCain's Iraq; he jumped and picked her and decided to clean up any mess from the decision afterwards.

    Speaks volumes about his judgement.

    September 2, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  13. Alex

    That's even worse..so they new all these things and still went with Palin..what does it say.... its worse...

    September 2, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  14. No way..

    Not much thought put into this MAJOR decision, McCain? Palin is not an interchangeable substitute for Hillary Clinton. Palin is the anti- Hillary. Her views are totally the opposite of those of Hillary's. Clinton and Obama & Biden are FOR women's issues and the McCain- Palin ticket is AGAINST women's issues.

    September 2, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  15. Jackson

    Executive experience is off the table as well.....McCain has zero. End of story. Palin is a joke to every voter in the country and the McCain camp is trying to sell us a bridge....the bridge to nowwhere. Sorry aint buying it.

    September 2, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  16. Breck

    Palin has caused a negative effect on polls for McCain. She was a horrible choice, he would have been better off with Pawlenty.

    September 2, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  17. It's the issues McCain...why don't you get it?

    Its the issues people...

    Billions and billions in debt..
    Our young soldiers dying for a lie in Iraq, while Osama runs free..
    Average Americans losing their, while the rich get tax breaks...
    Our bridges are collapsing...
    Our leaders getting away with unethical, illegal activities (Gonzalez)...
    Open and obvious discrimination...
    Tarnished foreign relations...
    Financial breaks for those sending jobs overseas...
    Gas prices...
    Food prices...

    It doesn't matter who he picks are why, they will still be a republican..and clueless about what the American people want!

    Vote Dem!

    September 2, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  18. bigben

    McCain what a loser

    September 2, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  19. Robert in Seattle

    So much spin my head is getting dizzy...

    Obama – Biden 08

    September 2, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  20. Jim

    It's 3pm in the White House and the red phone rings. President John McCain is taking his afternoon nap. Who do you think can answer that call? How about the former Gov. of Alaska who never finished a single term? And NEVER made a foreign policy decision or vote in his or her life.

    Good choice there John. Nice job.

    September 2, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  21. AF

    The Palin pick is an insult to the office of vice president. Completely unfit.

    September 2, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  22. Doc

    Bad choice in a VP, simple and to the point. McCains judgement is definitely in question as we continue to properly vett his VP pick. Now whether or not family is off limits, the GOP hasn't shown us this by example, (exhibit A: Obama's half brother in Africa), so it's my guess that some entity DNC or Media is going to have a field day with Palin's family. But w/o going there i do see the importance of the issues less that of the SPIN-ZONE, McCains pick brings into question was Palin his best choice based on the issues and experience that to which his campaign has run on. I don't think it was. So i wonder how true is it that McCain goes against the grain and against the party on certain issues despite whether or not they are sound choices. I beleive he is a maverick a loose canon and we can't trust him enough that he would'nt do the same if he had to make a choice on the issues(in relation the country) as opposed to tryin to win a competition.

    September 2, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  23. Who cares...it's about the issuess...

    Do you really want 4 more years of...

    Billions and billions in debt..
    Our young soldiers dying for a lie in Iraq, while Osama runs free..
    Average Americans losing their, while the rich get tax breaks...
    Our bridges are collapsing...
    Our leaders getting away with unethical, illegal activities (Gonzalez)...
    Open and obvious discrimination...
    Tarnished foreign relations...
    Financial breaks for those sending jobs overseas...
    Gas prices...
    Food prices...

    Vote Dem!

    September 2, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  24. bigben

    Wasn't Palin the chick on the van halen video hot for teacher?

    September 2, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  25. chris lewis

    palin will be gone by the end of the week and romney will be in. its all stagecraft attempting to show mccain as someone who can adjust is viewpoint and think critically. which he cant. the whole process is a sham and hopefully people will see it for what it is.

    September 2, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
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