WASILLA, Alaska – Sarah Palin and her husband have pieced together a uniquely Alaskan income that reached comfortably into six figures even before she became governor, capitalizing on valuable fishing rights, a series of land deals and a patchwork of other ventures to build an above-average lifestyle.
Add up the couple’s 2007 income and the estimated value of their property and investments, and they appear to be worth at least $1.2 million. That would make the Palins, like Democratic vice presidential rival Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, well-off but not nearly as wealthy as multimillionaire couples John and Cindy McCain and, to a lesser extent, Barack and Michelle Obama.
One measure of financial health: While there is a home loan, Palin reported no personal credit card debt on her most recent financial report as Alaska governor. That compares to average household credit card debt among Americans of $9,840 last year.
Palin this week characterized herself as “an everyday, working-class American” who knows how it feels when the stock market takes a hit.
The Palins’ total income last year was split almost evenly between Sarah Palin’s white-collar job and her husband’s blue-collar work. Sarah Palin’s salary as governor was $125,000; Todd Palin took in $46,790 as a part-time oil production operator for BP Alaska in Prudhoe Bay, plus $46,265 in commercial fishing income and $10,500 in Iron Dog snowmachine race winnings.
These figures do not include nearly $17,000 in per diem payments Palin received for 312 nights spent in her own home since she was elected governor; she also has received $43,490 to cover travel costs for her husband and children.
In addition, each member of the Palin family received $1,654 in state oil royalties paid to all Alaskans.
The Palins’ assets seem enviable: a half-million-dollar home on a lake with a float-plane at the dock, two vacation retreats, commercial-fishing rights worth an estimated $50,000 or more and an income last year of at least $230,000. That compares to a median household income of $64,333 for Alaskans and $50,740 for Americans in 2007, according to the Census Bureau.
But in Alaska, scarce roads make private planes commonplace, it’s typical to spend a month or two fishing commercially, and wilderness acreage is so plentiful, the state has sold loads’ worth in stake-your-claim style.
The Palins also invested in five lots along Safari Lake, an undeveloped area near Denali State Park. They bought the property, once owned by the state’s Department of Natural Resources and valued at $30,000 in assessment records, with friends in 2004 and 2005.
With other friends, the Palins own a cabin on five acres southwest of Wasilla and the Iditarod National Historic Trail. The land and cabin are assessed at $55,000; property records do not show what the Palins paid for their share.