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Meet Sarah Palin’s radical right-wing pals

Extrem­ists Mark Chryson and Steve Stoll helped launch Pal­in’s polit­i­cal career in Alas­ka, and in return had influ­ence over pol­i­cy. “Her door was open,” says Chryson — and still is.

by Max Blu­men­thal and David Nei­w­ert
Salon.com [1]

On the after­noon of Sept. 24 in down­town Palmer, Alas­ka, as the sun began to sink behind the snow­capped moun­tains that flank the pic­turesque Mat-Su Val­ley, 51-year-old Mark Chryson sat for an hour on a park bench, rev­el­ing in tales of his days as chair­man of the Alas­ka Inde­pen­dence Par­ty. The stocky, gray-haired com­put­er tech­ni­cian waxed nos­tal­gic about quixot­ic bat­tles to elim­i­nate tax­es, sup­port the “tra­di­tion­al fam­i­ly” and secede from the Unit­ed States.

So long as Alas­ka remained under the boot of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, said Chryson, the AIP had to stand on guard to stymie a New World Order. He invit­ed a Salon reporter to see a few items inside his pick­up truck that were intend­ed for his per­son­al pro­tec­tion. “This here is my attack dog,” he said with a chuck­le, hand­ing the reporter an exu­ber­ant 8‑pound papil­lon from his pas­sen­ger seat. “Her name is Suzy.” Then he pulled a 9‑millimeter Makarov PM pis­tol — once the stan­dard-issue sidearm for Sovi­et cops — out of his glove com­part­ment. “I’ve got enough weapon­ry to raise a small army in my base­ment,” he said, clutch­ing the gun in his palm. “Then again, so do most Alaskans.” But Chryson added a mes­sage of reas­sur­ance to res­i­dents of that far­away place some Alaskans call “the 48.” “We want to go our sep­a­rate ways,” he said, “but we are not going to kill you.”

Though Chryson belongs to a fringe polit­i­cal par­ty, one that advo­cates the seces­sion of Alas­ka from the Union, and that orga­nizes with oth­er like-mind­ed seces­sion­ist move­ments from Cana­da to the Deep South, he is not with­out pecu­liar influ­ence in state pol­i­tics, espe­cial­ly the rise of Sarah Palin. An obscure fig­ure out­side of Alas­ka, Chryson has been a polit­i­cal fix­ture in the home­town of the Repub­li­can vice-pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee for over a decade. Dur­ing the 1990s, when Chryson direct­ed the AIP, he and anoth­er rad­i­cal right-winger, Steve Stoll, played a qui­et but piv­otal role in elect­ing Palin as may­or of Wasil­la and shap­ing her polit­i­cal agen­da after­ward. Both Stoll and Chryson not only con­tributed to Pal­in’s cam­paign finan­cial­ly, they played major behind-the-scenes roles in the Palin camp before, dur­ing and after her vic­to­ry.

Palin backed Chryson as he suc­cess­ful­ly advanced a host of anti-tax, pro-gun ini­tia­tives, includ­ing one that altered the state Con­sti­tu­tion’s lan­guage to bet­ter facil­i­tate the for­ma­tion of anti-gov­ern­ment mili­tias. She joined in their vendet­ta against sev­er­al local offi­cials they dis­liked, and lis­tened to their advice about hir­ing. She attempt­ed to name Stoll, a John Birch Soci­ety activist known in the Mat-Su Val­ley as “Black Heli­copter Steve,” to an emp­ty Wasil­la City Coun­cil seat. “Every time I showed up her door was open,” said Chryson. “And that pol­i­cy con­tin­ued when she became gov­er­nor.”

When Chryson first met Sarah Palin, how­ev­er, he did­n’t real­ly trust her polit­i­cal­ly. It was the ear­ly 1990s, when he was a mem­ber of a local lib­er­tar­i­an pres­sure group called SAGE, or Stand­ing Against Gov­ern­ment Excess. (SAGE’s founder, Tam­my McGraw, was Pal­in’s birth coach.) Palin was a leader in a pro-sales-tax cit­i­zens group called WOW, or Watch Over Wasil­la, earn­ing a polit­i­cal cre­den­tial before her 1992 cam­paign for City Coun­cil. Though he was impressed by her inter­per­son­al skills, Chryson greet­ed Pal­in’s elec­tion war­i­ly, think­ing she was too close to the Democ­rats on the coun­cil and too pro-tax.

But soon, Palin and Chryson dis­cov­ered they could be use­ful to each oth­er. Palin would be run­ning for may­or, while Chryson was about to take over the chair­man­ship of the Alas­ka Inde­pen­dence Par­ty, which at its peak in 1990 had man­aged to elect a gov­er­nor.

The AIP was born of the vision of “Old Joe” Vogler, a hard-bit­ten for­mer gold min­er who hat­ed the gov­ern­ment of the Unit­ed States almost as much as he hat­ed wolves and envi­ron­men­tal­ists. His resent­ment peaked dur­ing the ear­ly 1970s when the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment began installing Alaska’s oil and gas pipeline. Fueled by raw rage — “The Unit­ed States has made a colony of Alas­ka,” he told author John McPhee in 1977 — Vogler declared a mav­er­ick can­di­da­cy for the gov­er­nor­ship in 1982. Though he lost, Old Joe became a force to be reck­oned with, as well as a con­stant source of amuse­ment for Alaska’s polit­i­cal class. Dur­ing a guber­na­to­r­i­al debate in 1982, Vogler pro­posed using nuclear weapons to oblit­er­ate the glac­i­ers block­ing road­ways to Juneau. “There’s gold under there!” he exclaimed.

Vogler made anoth­er failed run for the gov­er­nor’s man­sion in 1986. But the AIP’s for­tunes shift­ed sud­den­ly four years lat­er when Vogler con­vinced Richard Nixon’s for­mer inte­ri­or sec­re­tary, Wal­ly Hick­el, to run for gov­er­nor under his par­ty’s ban­ner. Hick­el coast­ed to vic­to­ry, out­flank­ing a mod­er­ate Repub­li­can and a cen­trist Demo­c­rat. An arch­con­ser­v­a­tive Repub­li­can run­ning under the AIP can­di­date, Jack Coghill, was elect­ed lieu­tenant gov­er­nor.

Hick­el’s sub­se­quent fail­ure as gov­er­nor to press for a vote on Alaskan inde­pen­dence ran­kled Old Joe. With spon­sor­ship from the Islam­ic Repub­lic of Iran, Vogler was sched­uled to present his case for Alaskan seces­sion before the Unit­ed Nations Gen­er­al Assem­bly in the late spring of 1993. But before he could, Old Joe’s long, strange polit­i­cal career end­ed trag­i­cal­ly that May when he was mur­dered by a fel­low seces­sion­ist.

Hick­el rejoined the Repub­li­can Par­ty the year after Vogler’s death and did­n’t run for reelec­tion. Lt. Gov. Coghill’s cam­paign to suc­ceed him as the AIP can­di­date for gov­er­nor end­ed in dis­as­ter; he peeled away just enough votes from the Repub­li­can, Jim Camp­bell, to throw the guber­na­to­r­i­al elec­tion to Demo­c­rat Tony Knowles.

Despite the dis­as­ter, Coghill hung on as AIP chair­man for three more years. When he was asked to resign in 1997, Mark Chryson replaced him. Chryson pur­sued a dual pol­i­cy of cozy­ing up to seces­sion­ist and right-wing groups in Alas­ka and else­where while also attempt­ing to repli­cate the AIP’s suc­cess with Hick­el in infil­trat­ing the main­stream.

Unlike some rad­i­cal right-wingers, Chryson does­n’t put for­ward his ideas freight­ed with anger or para­noia. And in a state where defense of gun and prop­er­ty rights often takes on a real reli­gious fer­vor, Chryson was able to present him­self as a typ­i­cal Alaskan.

He rose through par­ty ranks by reduc­ing the AIP’s plat­form to a sin­gle page that “90 per­cent of Alaskans could agree with.” This meant scrub­bing the old plat­form of what Chryson called “racist lan­guage” while accom­mo­dat­ing the state’s grow­ing Chris­t­ian right move­ment by empha­siz­ing the AIP’s com­mit­ment to the “tra­di­tion­al fam­i­ly.”

“The AIP is very fam­i­ly-ori­ent­ed,” Chryson explained. “We’re for the tra­di­tion­al fam­i­ly — dad­dy, mom­my, kids — because we all know that it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. And we don’t care if Heather has two mom­mies. That’s not a tra­di­tion­al fam­i­ly.”

Chryson fur­ther stream­lined the AIP’s plat­form by soft­en­ing its seces­sion­ist lan­guage. Instead of call­ing for imme­di­ate sep­a­ra­tion from the Unit­ed States, the plat­form now demands a vote on inde­pen­dence.

Yet Chryson main­tains that his par­ty remains com­mit­ted to full inde­pen­dence. “The Alaskan Inde­pen­dence Par­ty has got links to almost every inde­pen­dence-mind­ed move­ment in the world,” Chryson exclaimed. “And Alas­ka is not the only place that’s about sep­a­ra­tion. There’s at least 30 dif­fer­ent states that are talk­ing about some type of sep­a­ra­tion from the Unit­ed States.”

This has meant rub­bing shoul­ders and forg­ing alliances with out­right white suprema­cists and far-right theocrats, par­tic­u­lar­ly those who dom­i­nate the pro­ceed­ings at such gath­er­ings as the North Amer­i­can Seces­sion­ist c
onven­tions, which AIP del­e­gates have attend­ed in recent years. The AIP’s affil­i­a­tion with neo-Con­fed­er­ate orga­ni­za­tions is moti­vat­ed as much by ide­o­log­i­cal affin­i­ty as by orga­ni­za­tion­al con­ve­nience. Indeed, Chryson makes no secret of his sym­pa­thy for the Lost Cause. “Should the Con­fed­er­ate states have been allowed to sep­a­rate and go their peace­ful ways?” Chryson asked rhetor­i­cal­ly. “Yes. The War of North­ern Aggres­sion, or the Civ­il War, or the War Between the States — how­ev­er you want to refer to it — was not about slav­ery, it was about states’ rights.”

Anoth­er far-right orga­ni­za­tion with whom the AIP has long been aligned is Howard Phillips’ mili­tia-mind­ed Con­sti­tu­tion Par­ty. The AIP has been list­ed as the Con­sti­tu­tion Par­ty’s state affil­i­ate since the late 1990s, and it has endorsed the Con­sti­tu­tion Par­ty’s pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates (Michael Per­out­ka and Chuck Bald­win) in the past two elec­tions.

The Con­sti­tu­tion Par­ty boasts an open­ly theo­crat­ic plat­form that reads, “It is our goal to lim­it the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment to its del­e­gat­ed, enu­mer­at­ed, Con­sti­tu­tion­al func­tions and to restore Amer­i­can jurispru­dence to its orig­i­nal Bib­li­cal com­mon-law foun­da­tions.” In its 1990s incar­na­tion as the U.S. Tax­pay­ers Par­ty, it was on the front lines in pro­mot­ing the “mili­tia” move­ment, and a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of its mem­ber­ship com­pris­es for­mer and cur­rent mili­tia mem­bers.

At its 1992 con­ven­tion, the AIP host­ed both Phillips — the UST­P’s pres­i­den­tial can­di­date — and mili­tia-move­ment leader Col. James “Bo” Gritz, who was cam­paign­ing for pres­i­dent under the ban­ner of the far-right Pop­ulist Par­ty. Accord­ing to Chryson, AIP reg­u­lars heav­i­ly sup­port­ed Gritz, but the par­ty deferred to Phillips’ pres­ence and issued no offi­cial endorse­ments.

In Wasil­la, the AIP became pow­er­ful by proxy — because of Chryson and Stol­l’s alliance with Sarah Palin. Chryson and Stoll had found them­selves in con­stant oppo­si­tion to poli­cies of Wasil­la’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic may­or, who start­ed his three-term, nine-year tenure in 1987. By 1992, Chryson and Stoll had begun con­ven­ing reg­u­lar protests out­side City Coun­cil. Their demon­stra­tions invari­ably involved griev­ances against any and all forms of “social­ist gov­ern­ment,” from city plan­ning to pub­lic edu­ca­tion. Stoll shared Chryson’s con­spir­a­to­r­i­al views: “The rumor was that he had wrapped his guns in plas­tic and buried them in his yard so he could get them after the New World Order took over,” Stein told a reporter.

Chryson did not trust Palin when she joined the City Coun­cil in 1992. He claimed that she was hand­picked by Demo­c­ra­t­ic City Coun­cil lead­ers and by Wasil­la’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic may­or, John Stein, to rub­ber-stamp their tax hike pro­pos­als. “When I first met her,” he said, “I thought she was extreme­ly left. But I’ve watched her slow­ly as she’s become more pro­nounced in her con­ser­v­a­tive ide­ol­o­gy.”

Palin was well aware of Chryson’s views. “She knew my beliefs,” Chryson said. “The entire state knew my beliefs. I was­n’t afraid of being on the news, on cam­era speak­ing my views.”

But Chryson believes she trust­ed his judg­ment because he accu­rate­ly pre­dict­ed what life on the City Coun­cil would be like. “We were telling her, ‘This is prob­a­bly what’s going to hap­pen,’ ” he said. “ ‘The city is going to give this many peo­ple rais­es, they’re going to pave every­body’s roads, and they’re going to pave the City Coun­cil mem­bers’ roads.’ We could­n’t have script­ed it bet­ter because every­thing we pre­dict­ed came true.”

After intense evan­ge­liz­ing by Chryson and his allies, they claimed Palin as a con­vert. “When she start­ed tak­ing her job seri­ous­ly,” Chryson said, “the peo­ple who put her in as the rub­ber stamp found out the hard way that she was not going to go their way.” In 1994, Sarah Palin attend­ed the AIP’s statewide con­ven­tion. In 1995, her hus­band, Todd, changed his vot­er reg­is­tra­tion to AIP. Except for an inter­rup­tion of a few months, he would remain reg­is­tered was an AIP mem­ber until 2002, when he changed his reg­is­tra­tion to unde­clared.

In 1996, Palin decid­ed to run against John Stein as the Repub­li­can can­di­date for may­or of Wasil­la. While Palin pushed back against Stein’s poli­cies, par­tic­u­lar­ly those relat­ed to fund­ing pub­lic works, Chryson said he and Steve Stoll pre­pared the ground­work for her may­oral cam­paign.

Chryson and Stoll viewed Pal­in’s ascen­dan­cy as a vehi­cle for their own polit­i­cal ambi­tions. “She got sup­port from these guys,” Stein remarked. “I think smart politi­cians nev­er utter those kind of rad­i­cal things, but they let oth­er peo­ple do it for them. I nev­er recall Sarah say­ing she sup­port­ed the mili­tia or tak­ing a pub­lic stand like that. But these guys were def­i­nite­ly behind Sarah, think­ing she was the more con­ser­v­a­tive choice.”

“They worked behind the scenes,” said Stein. “I think they had a lot of influ­ence in terms of help­ing with the back-scat­ter neg­a­tive cam­paign­ing.”

Indeed, Chryson boast­ed that he and his allies urged Palin to focus her cam­paign on slash­ing char­ac­ter-based attacks. For instance, Chryson advised Palin to paint Stein as a sex­ist who had told her “to just sit there and look pret­ty” while she served on Wasil­la’s City Coun­cil. Though Palin nev­er made this accu­sa­tion, her 1996 cam­paign for may­or was the most neg­a­tive Wasil­la res­i­dents had ever wit­nessed.

While Palin played up her total oppo­si­tion to the sales tax and gun con­trol — the two hob­gob­lins of the AIP — mail­ers spread through­out the town por­tray­ing her as “the Chris­t­ian can­di­date,” a sub­tle sug­ges­tion that Stein, who is Luther­an, might be Jew­ish. “I watched that cam­paign unfold, bring­ing a lev­el of slime our com­mu­ni­ty had­n’t seen until then,” recalled Phil Munger, a local music teacher who counts him­self as a close friend of Stein.

“This same group [Stoll and Chryson] also [pub­licly] chal­lenged me on whether my wife and I were mar­ried because she had kept her maid­en name,” Stein bit­ter­ly recalled. “So we lit­er­al­ly had to pro­duce a mar­riage cer­tifi­cate. And as I recall, they said, ‘Well, you could have forged that.’ ”

When Palin won the elec­tion, the men who had once shout­ed anti-gov­ern­ment slo­gans out­side City Hall now had a foothold inside the may­or’s office. Palin attempt­ed to pay back her new­found pals dur­ing her first City Coun­cil meet­ing as may­or. In that meet­ing, on Oct. 14, 1996, she appoint­ed Stoll to one of the City Coun­cil’s two new­ly vacant seats. But Palin was blocked by the sin­gle vote of then-Coun­cil­man Nick Car­ney, who had endured count­less ran­corous con­fronta­tions with Stoll and con­sid­ered him a “vio­lent” influ­ence on local pol­i­tics. Though Palin con­sid­ered con­sult­ing attor­neys about find­ing anoth­er means of plac­ing Stoll on the coun­cil, she was ulti­mate­ly forced to back down and accept a com­pro­mise can­di­date.

Embold­ened by his nom­i­na­tion by May­or Palin, Stoll lat­er demand­ed she fire Wasil­la’s muse­um direc­tor, John Coop­er, a per­son­al ene­my he longed to sab­o­tage. Palin oblig­ed, elim­i­nat­ing Coop­er’s posi­tion in short order. “Gotcha, Coop­er!” Stoll told the deposed muse­um direc­tor after his ter­mi­na­tion, as Coop­er told a reporter for the New York Times. “And it only cost me a cam­paign con­tri­bu­tion.” Stoll, who donat­ed $1,000 to Pal­in’s may­oral cam­paign, did not respond to numer­ous requests for an inter­view. Palin has blamed bud­get con­cerns for Coop­er’s depar­ture.

The fol­low­ing year, when Car­ney pro­posed a local gun-con­trol mea­sure, Palin orga­nized with Chryson to smoth­er the nascent plan in its cra­dle. Car­ney’s pro­posed ordi­nance would have pro­hib­it­ed res­i­dents from car­ry­ing guns into schools, bars, hos­pi­tals, gov­ern­ment offices and play­grounds. Infu­ri­at­ed by the pro­pos­al that Car­ney viewed as a com­mon-sense pub­lic-safe­ty mea­sure, Chryson and sev­en allies stormed a July 1997 coun­cil meet­ing.

With the bill still in its for­ma­tive stages, Car­ney was not even ready to present it to the coun­cil, let alone con­duct pub­lic hear­ings on it. He and oth­er coun­cil mem­bers object­ed to the ad-hoc hear­ing as “a waste of time.” But Palin — in plain vio­la­tion of coun­cil r
ules and norms — insist­ed that Chryson tes­ti­fy, stat­ing, accord­ing to the min­utes, that “she invites the pub­lic to speak on any issue at any time.”

When Car­ney tried lat­er in the meet­ing to have the ordi­nance dis­cussed offi­cial­ly at the fol­low­ing reg­u­lar coun­cil meet­ing, he could­n’t even get a sec­ond. His pro­pos­al died that night, thanks to Palin and her extrem­ist allies.

“A lot of it was the ultra-con­ser­v­a­tive far right that is against every­thing in gov­ern­ment, includ­ing tax­es,” recalled Car­ney. “A lot of it was a per­son­al attack on me as being anti-gun, and a per­son­al attack on any­body who deigned to threat­en their author­i­ty to car­ry a loaded firearm wher­ev­er they pleased. That was the tenor of it. And it was being chore­o­graphed by Steve Stoll and the may­or.”

Asked if he thought it was Palin who had insti­gat­ed the turnout, he replied: “I know it was.”

By Chryson’s account, he and Palin also worked hand-in-glove to slash prop­er­ty tax­es and block a state pro­pos­al that would have tak­en mon­ey for pub­lic pro­grams from the Per­ma­nent Fund Div­i­dend, or the oil and gas fund that doles out annu­al pay­ments to cit­i­zens of Alas­ka. Palin endorsed Chryson’s unsuc­cess­ful ini­tia­tive to move the state Leg­is­la­ture from Juneau to Wasil­la. She also lent her sup­port to Chryson’s cru­sade to alter the Alas­ka Con­sti­tu­tion’s lan­guage on gun rights so cities and coun­ties could not impose their own restric­tions. “It took over 10 years to get that lan­guage writ­ten in,” Chryson said. “But Sarah [Palin] was there sup­port­ing it.”

“With Sarah as a may­or,” said Chryson, “there were a num­ber of times when I just showed up at City Hall and said, ‘Hey, Sarah, we need help.’ I think there was only one time when I was­n’t able to talk to her and that was because she was in a meet­ing.”

Chryson says the door remains open now that Palin is gov­er­nor. (Pal­in’s office did not respond to Salon’s request for an inter­view.) While Palin has been more cir­cum­spect in her deal­ings with groups like the AIP as she has risen through the polit­i­cal ranks, she has stayed in touch.

When Palin ran for gov­er­nor in 2006, mar­ket­ing her­self as a fresh-faced reformer deter­mined to crush the GOP’s ossi­fied pow­er struc­ture, she made cer­tain to appear at the AIP’s state con­ven­tion. To bur­nish her mav­er­ick image, she also tapped one-time AIP mem­ber and born-again Repub­li­can Wal­ter Hick­el as her cam­paign co-chair. Hick­el barn­stormed the state for Palin, hail­ing her sup­port for an “all-Alas­ka” liq­ue­fied gas pipeline, a project first pro­mot­ed in 2002 by an AIP guber­na­to­r­i­al can­di­date named Nels Ander­son. When Palin deliv­ered her vic­to­ry speech on elec­tion night, Hick­el stood beam­ing by her side. “I made her gov­er­nor,” he boast­ed after­ward. Two years lat­er, Hick­el has endorsed Pal­in’s bid for vice pres­i­dent.

Just months before Palin burst onto the nation­al stage as McCain’s vice-pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, she deliv­ered a video­taped address to the AIP’s annu­al con­ven­tion. Her mes­sage was scrupu­lous­ly free of seces­sion­ist rhetoric, but com­ple­men­tary nonethe­less. “I share your par­ty’s vision of uphold­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion of our great state,” Palin told the assem­bly of AIP del­e­gates. “My admin­is­tra­tion remains focused on rein­ing in gov­ern­ment growth so indi­vid­ual lib­er­ty can expand. I know you agree with that ... Keep up the good work and God bless you.”

When Palin became the Repub­li­can vice-pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, her atten­dance of the 1994 and 2006 AIP con­ven­tions and her hus­band’s mem­ber­ship in the par­ty (as well as Pal­in’s video­taped wel­come to the AIP’s 2008 con­ven­tion) gen­er­at­ed a minor con­tro­ver­sy. Chryson claimed, how­ev­er, that Sarah and Todd Palin nev­er even played a minor role in his par­ty’s inter­nal affairs. “Sarah’s nev­er been a mem­ber of the Alaskan Inde­pen­dence Par­ty,” Chryson insist­ed. “Todd has, but most of rur­al Alas­ka has too. I nev­er saw him at a meet­ing. They were at one meet­ing I was at. Sarah said hel­lo, but I did­n’t pay atten­tion because I was tak­ing care of busi­ness.”

But whether the Palins par­tic­i­pat­ed direct­ly in shap­ing the AIP’s pro­gram is less rel­e­vant than the extent to which they will imple­ment that pro­gram. Chryson and his allies have demon­strat­ed just as much inter­est in groom­ing major par­ty can­di­dates as they have in putting for­ward their own peo­ple. At a nation­al con­ven­tion of seces­sion­ist groups in 2007, AIP vice chair­man Dex­ter Clark announced that his par­ty would seek to “infil­trate” the Demo­c­ra­t­ic and Repub­li­can par­ties with can­di­dates sym­pa­thet­ic to its hard-right, seces­sion­ist agen­da. “You should use that tac­tic. You should infil­trate,” Clark told his audi­ence of neo-Con­fed­er­ates, theocrats and lib­er­tar­i­ans. “Whichev­er par­ty you think in that area you can get some­thing done, get into that par­ty. Even though that par­ty has its prob­lems, right now that is the only avenue.”

Clark point­ed to Pal­in’s polit­i­cal career as the mod­el of a suc­cess­ful infil­tra­tion. “There’s a lot of talk of her mov­ing up,” Clark said of Palin. “She was a mem­ber [of the AIP] when she was may­or of a small town, that was a non­par­ti­san job. But to get along and to go along she switched to the Repub­li­can Par­ty … She is pret­ty well sym­pa­thet­ic because of her mem­ber­ship.”

Clark’s asser­tion that Palin was once a card-car­ry­ing AIP mem­ber was swift­ly dis­cred­it­ed by the McCain cam­paign, which pro­duced records show­ing she had been a reg­is­tered Repub­li­can since 1988. But then why would Clark make such a state­ment? Why did he seem con­fi­dent that Palin was a true-blue AIP activist bur­row­ing with­in the Repub­li­can Par­ty? The most salient answer is that Palin was once so thor­ough­ly embed­ded with AIP fig­ures like Chryson and Stoll and seemed so enthu­si­as­tic about their agen­da, Clark may have sim­ply assumed she belonged to his par­ty.

Now, Palin is a house­hold name and her every move is scru­ti­nized by the Wash­ing­ton press corps. She can no longer afford to kib­itz with seces­sion­ists, how­ev­er instru­men­tal they may have been to her mete­oric ascen­dan­cy. This does not trou­ble her old AIP allies. Indeed, Chryson is hope­ful that Pal­in’s inau­gu­ra­tion will also rep­re­sent the start of a new infil­tra­tion.

“I’ve had my issues but she’s still stay­ing true to her core val­ues,” Chryson con­clud­ed. “Sarah’s friends don’t all agree with her, but do they respect her? Do they respect her ide­ol­o­gy and her val­ues? Def­i­nite­ly.”