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. Dori in AZ

    One of the country's largest news groups has reported that the chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party told them that Palin and her husband were members in 1994. The chairman was AIP secretary at the time, so she should have memory of it – it's recent history – and, a record.

    The Republicans are saying that the Obama campaign made this up. Wrong. The Alaskan Independence Party is saying it and the national media has picked it up.

    Vetting issues? You bet!

    September 2, 2008 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  2. Tom from California

    Where is Hillary Clinton? This is where she can help.

    She need to come out and blast the republicans about sexism.

    September 2, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  3. Dready1rasta

    Was this in the Republican plan? Offer the VP spot to a woman, have her rocked by scandal to a point where she will be forced to decline the nomination, John McCain nominates Lieberman, Pawlenty, or Romeny to replace her, then John has what he wants and they can claim to women, "Well at least WE tried". I guess we'll find out in the next couple of days.

    September 2, 2008 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  4. A Woman's respective

    What is wrong with the republican party? I take offense at the idea Ms. Palin was picked with the thought that woman would vote for her. I have only heard that her requirements have been that she has 5 children and she has fought for some rights that I'm not sure yet exactly what they are. I don't see that see has fought for the rights of her children too much, which should be her biggist priorty. I hope they don't get lost in all of this attention she is getting. I feel sorry for this family. McCains groupies have thrown them into a political merry-go-round. And I'm not sure if she has even got the sense to see it. I am in fear for the first time in my 55 years on this earth. Please America Wake Up. Don't let them drag us down anymore. For the sake of your children and grandchildren.

    September 2, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  5. mathteacher

    If you can believe 1/2 of what wikipedia has to report then look up Sarah Palin.

    September 2, 2008 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  6. Craig

    All together, now - Let's everyone please breathe a sigh of relief and thank John McCain for offering up "SARAH EAGLETON."

    September 2, 2008 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  7. Yossi G

    It is BEYOND ME that a pregnacy of a 17 year old, one of witch the left is ok with as long the kid can be aborted, should in any way shape the minds of Americans how to vote in Novembor. is this THE scandal against Mrs Palin? My God, I pray to you that ALL ppl runing for office or who are in office should have such a clean slate.
    oops, clean slate? Mr. Palin DWI'd 22 years ago. O yeah, This is a REAL scandal.

    September 2, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  8. Rodney

    Something to think about.....

    Palin likes to preach about fact she turned down the bridge to nowhere...

    Well she ran for governor by saying she would get the money to build it..

    But guess what.. She didn't build the bridge but she did take the money that was earmarked for the bridge, just didn't build it and used money for something else.

    Good spin on that one.. To bad you are in a new age that people can find out the truth..

    She has asked for over half a billion dollars in earmark money!!! And mccain says he totally against earmarks.. His new VP certainly isn't...

    Thats a major political issue...

    September 2, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  9. tiff

    if the 4 months old baby is sarah's, what will she as a vp when meeting with a world leader and baby is sick or needs mom? what hospital was this baby born? since she was able to make the decision to keep both her baby and her soon to be grand baby, do'nt the republican party members think that it will be women's decision to make regarding their pregnancies?

    September 2, 2008 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  10. Phil Newton from Murphy, Oregon

    Uh-huh. Covering the Northern Exposure the best they can.

    September 2, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  11. CFL

    Two months ago 90% of you didn't know the word "vetting". We had another term for it – digging up dirt to distract people from real issues.

    September 2, 2008 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  12. jeanette

    How long will it be before Palin drops out of the race????
    I still think her pick was a gimmick by the McCain camp.

    September 2, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  13. FR

    Dear Sen. McCain,

    You are a true American. You know what the people of this country has been through over the last eight years and you do not want them to go through that again for another four. You know that another Republican, like yourself, in the White House will be last 8 years of Pres. Bush all over again. This is why you chose Governor Palin as your running mate. I commend you for that. You have decided not to win in November and that is what this pick will bring you. I now understand the slogan on the podium at your rallies; "Country First". For the well being of this country you picked Governor Palin and eliminated all your chances to win. "My Friend" I am proud of you!

    September 2, 2008 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  14. Phil-texas

    What do you expect from the tabloid media we have now days the manufactor news then put on the air as if it is something they just found out there. The only thing that Palin can do now is not accept the nomination and go back to Alaska.

    September 2, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  15. Mary Jane Nichols

    Here we go again with the sexist remarks, questions in the media!!!!!! How different Obama has been treated!!!! In fact, most of the media has been in a LOVE NEST with Obama from day 1! Hillary was treated with inequality, It is so obvious to us women who balance children, families, work EVERYDAY and SUCCEED in all of it!!! When has Obama been asked if he could balance his family responsibilites with being President? When has Obama been asked about his "emotions"???!!! What a dismal ignorant atmosphere out there by the media when they give any of this any attention at all? I am ready to move to England!!!

    September 2, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  16. Jean, CANADA

    ENLIGHTENED VOTER...........SO ON POINT AND EXTREMELY IMPRESSIVE!!!!! I could have not said it any better!!!! PERIOD.

    Where was that quote taken from??!!!!

    What a telling week in the history of america....that quote speaks volumes about the mind-set of certain people within your populace.

    With HOPE from afar......

    OBAMA 08, 12 the TRUTH.

    September 2, 2008 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  17. georgia independent

    HEY Y'all – Layoff the Senator! We all know that his view of the world is 20 or 30 years behind the rest of us – give the old coot a break! Accept that he made this decision like he will make others if he is elected.

    Actually, McCain was right about one thing – it has been a very exciting choice... this is better than watching Northern Exposure... didn't they have an ex-beauty queen with issues?

    Obama/Biden

    September 2, 2008 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  18. Thomas Baird

    The deed is done McCain has made His choice of VP. Palin didnt have to accept it. Perhaps she thinks she is actually the best most qualified to be our new VP if they win.Whats her work history ,what schools did she go to where was she born . Who are her parents what clubs has she been a member of in her life time? What makes her qualified tobecome the VP of the most powerful country in the world. Do we really want a hocky mom from Alaska with two years experience asGovernor as our VP?

    September 2, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  19. Tony

    It makes you wonder. If John McCain only found this on Sarah Palin, what dirt did he find on the rest?

    September 2, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  20. True Observer

    The laundromats are going to be really busy at the rate the lib/dems are spouting off.

    September 2, 2008 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  21. sarah

    During Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign Sarah Palin told her to "stop whining" when Clinton claimed there to be sexism in the newsmedia. Now the McCain camp would like to play Palin as a bigger victim even though she has been in State politics for less than 2 years! From Palin's own words - STOP WHINING the race is sexist. According to her own claims there is no sexism in the newsmedia. Once again Palin contradicts herself. I also love how Obama got knocked for not wearing a flag pin but its apparently okay for Palin to have attended a separtist convention. Wow.

    September 2, 2008 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  22. SoReal

    Sarah Palin hid her pregnacy with this last child for seven months why? she is a married woman she has four children one more child what the big deal what's behind the secret. When you do not know you have a seventeen year old daughter in your house that is pregnant there is some neglect going on some where. Hold on it will soon unravel
    OBAMA!!!!

    September 2, 2008 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  23. Steph

    Pundits from the right are arguing the comparison between Palin & Obama's experience if either one ends up president (and it is extremely likely Palin would if McCain is elected with his health issues) but what they all fail to mention is that regardless of experience – THE PEOPLE VOTED FOR OBAMA and Palin would just get inserted into that most important position without the public voting for her!

    September 2, 2008 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  24. Paul

    McCain's pick of Sarah Palin seems attractive because some want a women in the White House. My problem with Mrs. Palin is that her current family personal issues (Pregnant daughter, and tiny newborn) is sure to have a psychological impact on all her family members.

    In my view, I hope McCain will retire now at the age of 72.

    September 2, 2008 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  25. Nick

    Did they understand that she would be putting a huge unfair burden of media attention on her underage pregnant daughter and still choose to put her political asperations before her family's well being?

    September 2, 2008 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
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