Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has introduced her family to the nation as small-town common folk since she burst onto the scene as the surprise pick for the Republican vice-presidential nominee last month. A check of financial records, though, shows the Palins live anything but a common life when compared with their fellow residents of their hometown of Wasilla.
Their combined income of nearly a quarter-million dollars last year was five times the median household income for Wasilla’s 7,000 residents. They own a single-engine plane, two boats, two personal watercraft and a half-million-dollar, custom-built home on a lake that is worth three times the average of other homes in town.
For the future, they also have a 401(k) retirement account compliments of Todd Palin’s years as an engineer with oil giant BP.
“Gov. Palin’s story is emblematic of the American dream,” McCain campaign spokesman Ben Porritt said.
The Palins have been hugely successful by most standards in both their public and their private lives, according to the records.
“As a person, she’s consistent, honest and warm,” said Cheryl Metiva, executive director of the chamber of commerce in the Palins’ hometown of Wasilla. “As a politician, she’s focused, direct and clear. And she’s done a tremendous job of balancing her family life and with her public duties.
“You underestimate her at your peril,” she said.
The couple’s house was appraised this year at $552,100, which, according to Alaska magazine, was designed and built by Mr. Palin.
Mr. Palin, known in Alaska as the “First Dude,” is a longtime commercial fisherman who maintains a highly sought-after commercial-fishing permit that has been handed down in his family from generation to generation. A native of Dillingham, Alaska, his mother is one-quarter Yup’ik Eskimo and his maternal grandmother is a member of the Curyung tribe, which is the source of the permit.
“Hard work and principled convictions have allowed her to catapult to being the most popular governor in America,” Mr. Porritt said of the Republican candidate.
“As a mayor, governor and mother of five, she stuck to her principles and found success,” he said, adding that a McCain-Palin administration would establish policies and goals to “provide a transparent and efficient government that aids taxpayers to follow the same pathway of success.”
But it has also provided fodder for numerous public attacks on the Alaska governor, questioning her competence and experience, along with her family and lifestyle. She has faced rising criticism in the press, including conservative commentators who have expressed doubts about her ability to serve as vice president.
In a state known as “The Last Frontier,” where only about 1 percent of the land is privately owned and the rest is controlled by a distrusted federal bureaucracy, however, Mrs. Palin enjoys a near 90 percent approval rating and more property than nearly all her neighbors.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s running mate lives with her husband and their five children - Track, 19; Bristol, 17; Willow, 14; Piper, 7; and Trig, 4 months - in a two-story house built in 2002 and located on more than 2 acres overlooking Lucile Lake in Matanuska Susitna County, about 40 miles north of Anchorage.
The couple also own four lakeside parcels, described in county records as “recreation” sites. They encompass 35 acres of forest along Trapper Creek near Safari Lake, north of Wasilla, and were appraised this year at $102,700.